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The rise and decline(?) of U.S. internal labor markets

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  • Erica Groshen
  • David Levine

Abstract

Many employers adopt practices that insulate their workforces from the outside labor market. One defining characteristic of such an "internal labor market" is a company wage policy that diverges from that of the external market. These divergences may occur for an entire employer on average, or for a subset of occupations at an employer. This paper examines the changing magnitude and persistence of both types of divergence over the last 40 years. We analyze a unique salary survey with detailed microdata on the pay practices of 228 large Midwestern employers. This long time period (the longest extant on a large number of employers) permits an evaluation of the supposed "golden age" of internal labor markets, as well as any recent decline. The results also shed light on several theories that attempt to explain increased pay inequality. We find no evidence of a recent decline in the importance of internal labor markets in large firms, as measured by the magnitude or persistence of deviations in company wage policies from market averages. Moreover, employers in industries that underwent deregulation or that experienced rising imports did not systematically weaken their internal labor markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Erica Groshen & David Levine, 1998. "The rise and decline(?) of U.S. internal labor markets," Research Paper 9819, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednrp:9819
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Erica Groshen & Mark Schweitzer, 1999. "Identifying Inflation's Grease and Sand Effects in the Labor Market," NBER Chapters,in: The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability, pages 273-314 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Charness, Gary & Levine, David I., 2002. "Changes in the employment contract?: Evidence from a quasi-experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 391-405, April.
    3. Marianne Bertrand, 2004. "From the Invisible Handshake to the Invisible Hand? How Import Competition Changes the Employment Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 723-766, October.
    4. Emmanuelle Auriol & Régis Renault, 2008. "Status and incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 305-326.
    5. Bryce Stephens, 2005. "Wage Dispersion, Compensation Policy and the Role of Firms," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2005-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    6. John M. Abowd & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Julia Lane & Paul Lengermann & Kristin McCue & Kevin McKinney & Kristin Sandusky, 2005. "The Relation among Human Capital, Productivity, and Market Value: Building Up from Micro Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 153-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Elizabeth Davis & Matthew Freedman & Julia Lane & Brian McCall & Nicole Nestoriak & Timothy Park, "undated". "Product Market Competition and Human Resource Practices: An Analysis of the Retail Food Sector," Working Papers 0905, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
    8. O'Shaughnessy, K C & Levine, David I & Cappelli, Peter, 2001. "Changes in Managerial Pay Structures 1986-1992 and Rising Returns to Skill," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 482-507, July.
    9. Julie L. Hotchkiss & M. Melinda Pitts & John C. Robertson, 2004. "Wage gains among job changers across the business cycle:> insight from state administrative data," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2004-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    10. Lane, Julia I. & Salmon, Laurie A. & Spletzer, James R., 2007. "Establishment Wage Differentials," Working Papers 403, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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    Keywords

    Labor market ; Wages;

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