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Frictional wage dispersion in search models: a quantitative assessment

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  • Andreas Hornstein
  • Per Krusell
  • Giovanni L. Violante

Abstract

Standard search and matching models of equilibrium unemployment, once properly calibrated, can generate only a small amount of frictional wage dispersion, i.e., wage differentials among ex-ante similar workers induced purely by search frictions. We derive this result for a specific measure of wage dispersion|the ratio between the average wage and the lowest (reservation) wage paid. We show that in a large class of search and matching models this statistic (the \mean-min ratio\") can be obtained in closed form as a function of observable variables (i.e., interest rate, value of leisure, and statistics of labor market turnover). Looking at various independent data sources suggests that, empirically, residual wage dispersion (i.e., inequality among observationally similar workers) exceeds the model's prediction by a factor of 20. We discuss three extensions of the model (risk aversion, volatile wages during employment, and on-the-job search) and find that, in their simplest version, they can improve its performance, but only modestly. We conclude that either frictions account for a tiny fraction of residual wage dispersion, or the standard model needs to be augmented to confront the data.

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  • Andreas Hornstein & Per Krusell & Giovanni L. Violante, 2006. "Frictional wage dispersion in search models: a quantitative assessment," Working Paper 06-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:06-07
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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