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Spatial sorting

  • Jan Eeckhout


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London)

  • Roberto Pinheiro

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Kurt Schmidheiny

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

We investigate the role of complementarities in production and skill mobility across cities. We propose a general equilibrium model of location choice by heterogeneously skilled workers, and consider different degrees of complementarities between the skills of workers. The nature of the complementarities determines the equilibrium skill distribution across cities. We prove that with extreme-skill complementarity, the skill distribution has fatter tails in large cities; with top-skill complementarity, there is first-order stochastic dominance. Using the model to back out skills from wage and housing price data, we find robust evidence of fat tails in large cities. Big cities have big inequality. This pattern of spatial sorting is consistent with extreme-skill complementarity: the productivity of high skilled workers and of the providers of low skilled services is mutually enhanced.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W13/18.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:13/18
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  1. Ronald Oaxaca, 1971. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," Working Papers 396, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
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  6. Schmidheiny, Kurt, 2006. "Income segregation from local income taxation when households differ in both preferences and incomes," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 270-299, March.
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  18. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:118:y:2003:i:4:p:1279-1333 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
  20. Bacolod, Marigee & Blum, Bernardo S. & Strange, William C., 2009. "Skills in the city," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 136-153, March.
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  23. 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.
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  28. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2002. "Geographic concentration and establishment size: analysis in an alternative economic geography model," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-17, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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