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Mincer's Overtaking Point and the Lifecycle Earnings Distribution

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  • Polachek, Solomon

    () (Binghamton University, New York)

Abstract

In 1958 Jacob Mincer pioneered an important approach to understand earnings distribution. In the years since Mincer’s seminal work, he as well as his students and colleagues extended the original human capital model, reaching important conclusions about a whole array of observations pertaining to human wellbeing. This line of research explained why education enhances earnings; why earnings rise at a diminishing rate throughout one’s life; why earnings growth is smaller for those anticipating intermittent labor force participation; why men earn more than women; why whites earn more than blacks; why occupational distributions differ by gender; why geographic and job mobility predominate among the young; why unemployment is lower among the skilled; and why numerous other labor market phenomena occur. This paper surveys the answers to these and other questions based on research emanating from Mincer’s original discovery. In addition, this paper provides new empirical evidence regarding Mincer’s concept of the “overtaking age” – a topic not currently well explored in the literature. In this latter vein, the paper shows that Mincer’s original finding of a U-shaped (log) variance of earnings over the life cycle is upheld in recent data, both for the U.S. as well as at least seven other countries.

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  • Polachek, Solomon, 2003. "Mincer's Overtaking Point and the Lifecycle Earnings Distribution," IZA Discussion Papers 865, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp865
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    Cited by:

    1. Das, Tirthatanmoy & Polachek, Solomon, 2017. "Micro Foundations of Earnings Differences," IZA Discussion Papers 10922, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Polachek, Solomon W., 2008. "Earnings Over the Life Cycle: The Mincer Earnings Function and Its Applications," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 4(3), pages 165-272, April.
    3. Marotzke, Petra, 2013. "Job Search and the Age-Inequality Profile," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80007, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    overtaking age; earnings; human capital; wellbeing; Mincer;

    JEL classification:

    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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