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Wage Dynamics and Unobserved Heterogeneity: Time Preference or Learning Ability?

  • Munasinghe, Lalith

    ()

    (Columbia University)

  • Sicherman, Nachum

    ()

    (Columbia University)

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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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1436.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1436
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  1. Sander, William, 1995. "Schooling and smoking," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 23-33, March.
  2. W. Kip Viscusi & Joni Hersch, 2001. "Cigarette Smokers As Job Risk Takers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 269-280, May.
  3. 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.
  4. Phillip B. Levine & Tara A. Gustafson & Ann D. Velenchik, 1995. "More Bad News for Smokers? The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 5270, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
  6. Sherwin Rosen, 1972. "Learning and Experience in the Labor Market," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 7(3), pages 326-342.
  7. Loewenstein, George F & Sicherman, Nachum, 1991. "Do Workers Prefer Increasing Wage Profiles?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 67-84, January.
  8. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  9. Munasinghe, Lalith, 2000. "Wage Growth and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 204-20, April.
  10. Hersch, Joni, 2000. " Gender, Income Levels, and the Demand for Cigarettes," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 21(2-3), pages 263-82, November.
  11. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 93-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. William N. Evans & Edward Montgomery, 1994. "Education and Health: Where There's Smoke There's an Instrument," NBER Working Papers 4949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
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