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Earnings functions when wages and prices vary by location

  • Dan Black
  • Natalia Kolesnikova
  • Lowell J. Taylor

In this paper we study whether location-specific price variation likely affects statistical inference and theoretical interpretation in the empirical implementation of human capital earnings functions. We demonstrate, in a model of local labor markets, that the ?return to schooling" is a constant across locations if and only if preferences are homothetic ? a special case that seems unlikely to generally pertain. Examination of U.S. Census data (for 1980, 1990, and 2000) provides persuasive evidence that the return to a college education, relative to a high school education, does indeed vary widely across cities, e.g., in 1990 the return in Houston is 0.54 while in Seattle it is only 0.33. We provide theoretical reasons to suspect that the returns to education are relatively lower in expensive high-amenity locations, and present evidence consistent with this prediction. Finally, we raise concerns about standard empirical exercises in labor economics which treat the returns to education as a single parameter.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2007-031.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2007-031
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  1. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2001. "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," NBER Working Papers 8598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," NBER Working Papers 9732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Haurin, Donald R, 1980. "The Regional Distribution of Population, Migration, and Climate," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 293-308, September.
  7. Gyourko, Joseph & Kahn, Matthew & Tracy, Joseph, 1999. "Quality of life and environmental comparisons," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 37, pages 1413-1454 Elsevier.
  8. Harmon, Oskar R., 1988. "The income elasticity of demand for single-family owner-occupied housing: An empirical reconciliation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 173-185, September.
  9. Black, Dan & Sanders, Seth & Taylor, Lowell, 2003. "Measurement of Higher Education in the Census and Current Population Survey," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 98, pages 545-554, January.
  10. Gordon Dahl, 1997. "Mobility and the Returns to Education: Testing A Roy Model With Multiple Markets," Working Papers 760, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. William C. Horrace & Peter Schmidt, 2000. "Multiple comparisons with the best, with economic applications," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(1), pages 1-26.
  12. Harvey S. Rosen, 1983. "Housing Subsidies: Effects on Housing Decisions, Efficiency, and Equity," NBER Working Papers 1161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Beeson, Patricia E., 1991. "Amenities and regional differences in returns to worker characteristics," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 224-241, September.
  14. J. A. Hausman & W. K. Newey & J. L. Powel, 1988. "Nonlinear Errors in Variables: Estimation of Some Engel Curves," Working papers 504, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Barry R. Chiswick, 1974. "Income Inequality: Regional Analyses within a Human Capital Framework," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number chis74-1, November.
  16. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-42, April.
  17. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  18. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  19. Olsen, Edgar O., 1987. "The demand and supply of housing service: A critical survey of the empirical literature," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 25, pages 989-1022 Elsevier.
  20. Acemoglu, Daron, 1996. "A Microfoundation for Social Increasing Returns in Human Capital Accumulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 779-804, August.
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