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Wage Dispersion and Search Behavior

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  • Robert E. Hall
  • Andreas I. Mueller

Abstract

We use a rich new body of data on the experiences of unemployed job-seekers to determine the sources of wage dispersion and to create a search model consistent with the acceptance decisions the job-seekers made. From the data and the model, we identify the distributions of four key variables: offered wages, offered non-wage job values, the value of the job-seeker's non-work alternative, and the job-seeker's personal productivity. We find that, conditional on personal productivity, the dispersion of offered wages is moderate, accounting for 21 percent of the total variation in observed offered wages, whereas the dispersion of the non-wage component of offered job values is substantially larger. We relate our findings to an influential recent paper by Hornstein, Krusell, and Violante who called attention to the tension between the fairly high dispersion of the values job-seekers assign to their job offers–which suggest a high value to sampling from multiple offers–and the fact that the job-seekers often accept the first offer they receive.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Hall & Andreas I. Mueller, 2015. "Wage Dispersion and Search Behavior," Economics Working Papers 15119, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hoo:wpaper:15119
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pierre Cahuc & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2006. "Wage Bargaining with On-the-Job Search: Theory and Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(2), pages 323-364, March.
    2. Hamish Low & Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2010. "Wage Risk and Employment Risk over the Life Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1432-1467, September.
    3. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2002. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion with Worker and Employer Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2295-2350, November.
    4. Bound, John & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "The Extent of Measurement Error in Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, January.
    5. Isaac Sorkin, 2018. "Ranking Firms Using Revealed Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(3), pages 1331-1393.
    6. Kevin Lang & Sumon Majumdar, 2003. "The Pricing of Job Characteristics When Markets Do Not Clear: Theory and Implications," NBER Working Papers 9911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Volker Tjaden & Felix Wellschmied, 2014. "Quantifying the Contribution of Search to Wage Inequality," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 134-161, January.
    8. Paul Sullivan & Ted To, 2014. "Search and Nonwage Job Characteristics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 472-507.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexandre Mas & Amanda Pallais, 2017. "Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(12), pages 3722-3759, December.
    2. Robert E. Hall, 2015. "Quantifying the Lasting Harm to the US Economy from the Financial Crisis," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 71-128.
    3. Koenig, Felix & Manning, Alan & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2014. "Reservation wages and the wage flexibility puzzle," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60613, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Mecikovsky, Ariel & Wellschmied, Felix, 2016. "Wage Risk, Employment Risk and the Rise in Wage Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 10451, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Alexandre Mas & Amanda Pallais, 2019. "Labor Supply and the Value of Non-work Time: Experimental Estimates from the Field," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 111-126, June.
    6. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2016. "The Limited Macroeconomic Effects of Unemployment Benefit Extensions," Working Papers 733, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2016. "The Cyclicality of the Opportunity Cost of Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(6), pages 1563-1618.
    8. Mazur, Karol, 2016. "Can welfare abuse be welfare improving?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 11-28.
    9. Chen Liang & Yili Hong & Bin Gu & Jing Peng, 2018. "Gender Wage Gap in Online Gig Economy and Gender Differences in Job Preferences," Working Papers 18-03, NET Institute.
    10. Ying Feng & David Lagakos & James E. Rauch, 2018. "Unemployment and Development," NBER Working Papers 25171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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