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Returns to Seniority in Union and Nonunion Jobs: A New Look at the Evidence

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  • Katharine G. Abraham
  • Henry S. Farber

Abstract

One of the most prominent features of U.S. unionism is the key role played by seniority. However, in cross-sectional data, the positive association between seniority and earnings is typically much stronger for nonunion workers than for union workers. This finding has puzzled previous researchers, since it seems inconsistent with the generalization that seniority is more important in the union sector than in the nonunion sector. We show that standard estimates of the return to seniority are likely to be biased upward and argue that the bias is likely to be larger in the nonunion sector than in the union sector. Corrected estimates imply that the return to seniority is, in fact, larger in the union sector than in the nonunion sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1987. "Returns to Seniority in Union and Nonunion Jobs: A New Look at the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2368 Note: LS
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    1. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
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    3. Katharine G. Abraham & James L. Medoff, 1985. "Length of Service and Promotions in Union and Nonunion Work Groups," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(3), pages 408-420, April.
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    5. Douglas H. Blair & David L. Crawford, 1984. "Labor Union Objectives and Collective Bargaining," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(3), pages 547-566.
    6. Joseph G. Altonji & Robert A. Shakotko, 1987. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 437-459.
    7. Ernst R. Berndt & Bronwyn H. Hall & Robert E. Hall & Jerry A. Hausman, 1974. "Estimation and Inference in Nonlinear Structural Models," NBER Chapters,in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 3, number 4, pages 653-665 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hall, Robert E, 1982. "The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 716-724, September.
    9. Thomas Hyclak, 1979. "The Effect of Unions on Earnings Inequality in Local Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(1), pages 77-84, October.
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    12. Lancaster, Tony, 1979. "Econometric Methods for the Duration of Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(4), pages 939-956, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Krusell, Per & Rudanko, Leena, 2016. "Unions in a frictional labor market," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 35-50.
    2. Hart, Robert A & Ma, Yue, 2013. "Overtime Working and Contract Efficiency," SIRE Discussion Papers 2013-121, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    3. Den Haan, Wouter J. & Kobielarz, Michal L. & Rendahl, Pontus, 2015. "Exact present solution with consistent future approximation: a gridless algorithm to solve stochastic dynamic models," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86278, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Reich, Michael, 2012. "The Rising Strength of Management, High Unemployment and Slow Growth: Revisiting Okun’s Law," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt8sc8s1z1, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    5. Pedro Portugal & Pedro S. Raposo & Anabela Carneiro, 2015. "Decomposing the wage losses of displaced workers: the role of the reallocation of workers into firms and job titles," Working Papers w201511, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    6. Brown, Byron W. & Woodbury, Stephen A., 1998. "Seniority, external labor markets, and faculty pay," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 771-798.
    7. Gayle, George-Levi & Viauroux, Christelle, 2007. "Root-N consistent semiparametric estimators of a dynamic panel-sample-selection model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, pages 179-212.
    8. Devereux, Paul J & Hart, Robert A & Roberts, J Elizabeth, 2013. "Job spells, employer spells, and wage returns to tenure," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2013-01, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    9. Williams, Nicolas, 2009. "Seniority, experience, and wages in the UK," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 272-283, June.
    10. Björklund, Anders & Åkerman, Jeanette, 1989. "Piece-Rates, On-the-Job Training and the Wage-Tenure Profile," Working Paper Series 246, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    11. repec:cdl:indrel:qt35g487jh is not listed on IDEAS

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