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Trends in the Transitory Variance of Male Earnings in the U.S., 1970-2004


  • Robert A. Moffitt
  • Peter Gottschalk


We estimate the trend in the transitory variance of male earnings in the U.S. using the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1970 to 2004. Using both an error components model as well as simpler but only approximate methods, we find that the transitory variance started to increase in the early 1970s, continued to increase through the mid-1980s, and then remained at this new higher level through the 1990s and beyond. Thus the increase mostly occurred about thirty years ago. Its increase accounts for between 31 and 49 percent of the total rise in cross-sectional variance, depending on the time period.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Moffitt & Peter Gottschalk, 2011. "Trends in the Transitory Variance of Male Earnings in the U.S., 1970-2004," NBER Working Papers 16833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16833
    Note: PE

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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Anthony A. Smith Jr. & Ivan Vidangos, 2013. "Modeling Earnings Dynamics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1395-1454, July.
    2. Lorenzo Cappellari, 2011. "Flexicurity, wage dynamics and inequality over the life-cycle," DISCE - Quaderni dell'Istituto di Economia dell'Impresa e del Lavoro ieil0064, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
    3. Magnac, Thierry & Pistolesi, Nicolas & Roux, Sébastien, 2013. "Post schooling human capital investments and the life cycle variance of earnings," TSE Working Papers 13-380, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    4. Till Treeck, 2014. "Did Inequality Cause The U.S. Financial Crisis?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(3), pages 421-448, July.
    5. Jeffrey Brown & Chichun Fang & Francisco Gomes, 2012. "Risk and Returns to Education," NBER Working Papers 18300, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Till van Treeck, 2012. "Did inequality cause the U.S. financial crisis?," IMK Working Paper 91-2012, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    7. Sabelhaus, John & Song, Jae, 2009. "Earnings Volatility Across Groups and Time," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(2), pages 347-364, June.
    8. Ivan Vidangos & Joseph Altonji, 2014. "Marriage Dynamics, Earnings Dynamics, and Lifetime Family Income," 2014 Meeting Papers 1230, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. van Treeck, Till. & Sturn, Simon., 2012. "Income inequality as a cause of the Great Recession? : A survey of current debates," ILO Working Papers 994709343402676, International Labour Organization.

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    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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