Wage Dynamics and Unobserved Heterogeneity: Time Preference or Learning Ability?
A large fraction of the variation in wage levels and wage growth rates among individuals remains unexplained. Economists argue that “unobserved” heterogeneity is among the more likely reasons for this unexplained variation in wages. The source of individual heterogeneity is typically attributed to data limitations and the unobservability of certain productivity related factors. In this paper we present a theory of career choice and derive a discriminating test between two inherently unobservable sources of heterogeneity — learning ability and workers’ inter-temporal preferences (discounting) — both of which can clearly account for the variation in wage levels and wage growth rates. We apply this test to the large observed differences in wages and wage growth rates between smokers and non-smokers. The empirical evidence suggests that smoking is a proxy for individual discount rates.
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- Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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- Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
- Lalith Munasinghe & Nachum Sicherman, 2006. "Why Do Dancers Smoke? Smoking, Time Preference, and Wage Dynamics," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 595-616, Fall.
- Sherwin Rosen, 1972. "Learning and Experience in the Labor Market," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 7(3), pages 326-342. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
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