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Inter-Industry Wage Differentials and Unobserved Ability: Siblings Evidence from Five Countries


  • Björklund, Anders

    () (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Bratsberg, Bernt

    () (Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research)

  • Eriksson, Tor

    () (Aarhus School of Business)

  • Jäntti, Markus

    () (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Raaum, Oddbjørn

    () (Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research)


This paper examines the role of unobserved ability in explaining inter-industry wage differentials, drawing on data on brothers. Such data allow us to account for unmeasured abilities due to common family and community factors shared by siblings. Important advantages of this approach are that we do not rely on assumptions of exogenous job mobility and that estimates reflect long-run wage differentials rather than short-run differences following switch of industry. The data sets come from four of the Nordic countries and the United States. We find that, in the Nordic countries, only a moderate proportion of the variability in industry wages is due to unobserved ability, while unmeasured factors explain as much as half of the industry wage variation observed in the United States. Accounting for such differences, we show that the U.S. inter-industry wage dispersion is similar to those of the Nordic countries.

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  • Björklund, Anders & Bratsberg, Bernt & Eriksson, Tor & Jäntti, Markus & Raaum, Oddbjørn, 2004. "Inter-Industry Wage Differentials and Unobserved Ability: Siblings Evidence from Five Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 1080, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1080

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    Cited by:

    1. Ana María Iregui B. & Ligia Alba Melo B. & María Teresa Ramírez, 2010. "Wage differentials across economic sectors in the Colombian formal labour market: evidence from a survey of firms," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 007736, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    2. Plasman, Robert & Rycx, Francois & Tojerow, Ilan, 2006. "Industry Wage Differentials, Unobserved Ability, and Rent-Sharing: Evidence from Matched Worker-Firm Data, 1995-2002," IZA Discussion Papers 2387, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Du Caju, Philip & Rycx, Francois & Tojerow, Ilan, 2008. "Rent-Sharing and the Cyclicality of Wage Differentials," IZA Discussion Papers 3844, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Brenda Gannon & Robert Plasman & Francois Rycx & Ilan Tojerow, 2007. "Inter-Industry Wage Differentials and the Gender Wage Gap: Evidence from European Countries," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 38(1), pages 135-155.
    5. Robert Plasman & François Rycx & Ilan Tojerow, 2006. "Industry wage differentials, unobserved ability, and rent-sharing: evidence from matched employer-employee, 1992-2005," DULBEA Working Papers 06-14.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Wolfgang Pollan, 2009. "How large are wage differentials in Austria?," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 389-406, November.
    7. Robert Plasman & François Rycx & Ilan Tojerow, 2007. "Wage differentials in Belgium: the role of worker and employer characteristics," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 50(1), pages 11-40.
    8. Philip Du Caju & François Rycx & Ilan Tojerow, 2011. "Wage Structure Effects of International Trade: Evidence from a Small Open Economy," Working Papers CEB 11-011, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    9. Magda, Iga & Rycx, Francois & Tojerow, Ilan & Valsamis, Daphné, 2008. "Wage Differentials across Sectors in Europe: An East-West Comparison," IZA Discussion Papers 3830, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Björklund, Anders, 2006. "Family Background and Outcomes Later in Life: A (Partial and Personal) Survey of Recent Research Using Swedish Register Data," Working Paper Series 4/2007, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    11. Zhao Chen & Ming Lu & Guanghua Wan, 2010. "Inter-Industry Wage Differentials: An Increasingly Important Contributor to Urban China Income Inequality," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd09-130, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    12. Zhao Chen & Ming Lu & Hiroshi Sato, 2009. "Social Networks and Labor Market Entry Barriers: Understanding Inter-industrial Wage Differentials in Urban China," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd09-084, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

    More about this item


    inter-industry wage differentials; siblings; unobserved ability;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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