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How Long is a Spell of Unemployment?: Illusions and Biases in the Use of CPS Data

  • Nicholas M. Kiefer
  • Shelly J. Lundberg
  • George R. Neumann

Most data used to study the durations of unemployment spells come from the Current Population Survey, which is a point-in-time survey and gives an incomplete picture of the underlying duration distribution. We introduce a new sample of completed unemployment spells obtained from panel data and apply CPS sampling and reporting techniques to replicate the type of data used by other researchers. Predicted duration distributions derived from this CPS-like data are then compared to the actual distribution. We conclude that the best inferences that can be made about unemployment durations using CPS-like data are seriously biased.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1467.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1467.

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Date of creation: Sep 1984
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Vol. 3, no. 2 (April 1985): pp. 118-128.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1467
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Akerlof, George A & Main, Brian G M, 1980. "Unemployment Spells and Unemployment Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 885-93, December.
  2. Salant, Stephen W, 1977. "Search Theory and Duration Data: A Theory of Sorts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-57, February.
  3. Stephen T. Marston, 1976. "Employment Instability and High Unemployment Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 7(1), pages 169-210.
  4. Bowers, J K & Harkess, D, 1979. "Duration of Unemployment by Age and Sex," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 46(183), pages 239-60, August.
  5. Keeley, Michael C, et al, 1978. "The Estimation of Labor Supply Models Using Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 873-87, December.
  6. Burdett, Kenneth, et al, 1984. "Earnings, Unemployment, and the Allocation of Time over Time," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 559-78, October.
  7. Tuma, Nancy Brandon & Robins, Philip K, 1980. "A Dynamic Model of Employment Behavior: An Application to the Seattle and Denver Income Maintenance Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 1031-52, May.
  8. Robert E. Hall, 1972. "Turnover in the Labor Force," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 3(3), pages 709-764.
  9. Frank, Robert H, 1978. "How Long Is a Spell of Unemployment?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 285-302, March.
  10. Abowd, John M & Zellner, Arnold, 1985. "Estimating Gross Labor-Force Flows," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(3), pages 254-83, June.
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