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The Employed, the Unemployed, and the Unemployable: Directed Search with Worker Heterogeneity

  • Suren Basov
  • Ian King
  • Lawrence Uren

We examine the implications of worker heterogeneity on the equilibrium matching process, using a directed search model. Worker abilities are selected from a general distribution, subject to some weak regularity requirements, and the firms direct their job offers to workers. We identify conditions under which some fraction of the workforce will be "unemployable": no firm will approach them even though they offer positive surplus. For large markets we derive a simple closed form expression for the equilibrum matching function. This function has constant returns to scale and two new terms, which are functions of the underlying distribution of worker productivities: the percentage of unemployable workers, and a measure of heterogeneity (?).The equilibrium unemployment rate is increasing in ? and, under certain circumstances, is increasing in the productivity of highly skilled workers, despite endogenous entry. A key empirical prediction of the theory is that ? ? 1. We examine this prediction, using data from several countries.

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 1094.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1094
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, The University of Melbourne, 4th Floor, FBE Building, Level 4, 111 Barry Street. Victoria, 3010, Australia
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Web page: http://www.economics.unimelb.edu.auEmail:


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  1. Montgomery, James D, 1991. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion and Interindustry Wage Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(1), pages 163-79, February.
  2. Robert Shimer, 2007. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 13421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Philipp Kircher, 2009. "Efficiency of simultaneous search," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 29703, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Shouyong Shi, 1998. "Frictional Assignment," Working Papers 988, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  5. Michael Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Aysegul Sahin, 2008. "Unemployment Dynamics in the OECD," NBER Working Papers 14617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. James Albrecht, Pieter Gautier, & Susan Vroman, 2003. "Equilibrium Directed Search with Multiple Application," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-02, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  7. Camera, Gabriele & Selcuk, Cemil, 2004. "Price Dispersion with Directed Search," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1173, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  8. Moen, Espen R, 1997. "Competitive Search Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 385-411, April.
  9. Shouyong Shi, 2002. "A Directed Search Model of Inequality with Heterogeneous Skills and Skill-Biased Technology," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 467-491.
  10. Manolis Galenianos & Philipp A. Kircher, 2005. "Directed Search with Multiple Job Applications," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse20_2005, University of Bonn, Germany.
  11. Julien, Benoit & Kennes, John & King, Ian, 2006. "The Mortensen rule and efficient coordination unemployment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 149-155, February.
  12. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, March.
  13. Benoit Julien & John Kennes & Ian King, 2000. "Bidding for Labor," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(4), pages 619-649, October.
  14. Benoit Julien & John Kennes & Ian King, 2001. "Residual Wage Disparity and Coordination Unemployment," CAM Working Papers 2004-20, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics, revised Nov 2004.
  15. Margaret Stevens, 2007. "New Microfoundations For The Aggregate Matching Function," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(3), pages 847-868, 08.
  16. Jan Eeckhout & Philipp Kircher, 2008. "Sorting and Decentralized Price Competition," PIER Working Paper Archive 08-020, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  17. Kenneth Burdett & Shouyong Shi & Randall Wright, 2001. "Pricing and Matching with Frictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 1060-1085, October.
  18. Robert Shimer, 2001. "The Assignment of Workers to Jobs In an Economy with Coordination Frictions," NBER Working Papers 8501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Benoît Julien & John Kennes & Ian King, 2005. "Ex post bidding and efficient coordination unemployment," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(1), pages 174-193, February.
  20. Christopher A. Pissarides & Barbara Petrongolo, 2001. "Looking into the Black Box: A Survey of the Matching Function," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(2), pages 390-431, June.
  21. Albrecht, James & Tan, Serene & Gautier, Pieter & Vroman, Susan, 2004. "Matching with multiple applications revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 311-314, September.
  22. Peters, Michael, 1984. "Bertrand Equilibrium with Capacity Constraints and Restricted Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(5), pages 1117-27, September.
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