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Heterogeneity and Learning in Labor Markets

  • Simon D. Woodcock

    (Simon Fraser University)

This paper examines the role of agent heterogeneity and learning on wage dispersion and employment dynamics. In the first half of the paper, I present an equilibrium matching model where heterogeneous workers and firms learn about match quality and bargain over wages. The model generalizes Jovanovic (1979) to the case of heterogeneous workers and firms. Equilibrium wage dispersion arises due to productivity differences across workers, technological differences across firms, and heterogeneity in beliefs about match quality. Under a simple CRS technology, the equilibrium wage is additively separable in worker- and firm-specific components, and in the posterior mean of beliefs about match quality. This parallels the 'person and firm effects' empirical specification of Abowd et. al. (1999, AKM) and others. It consequently provides a theoretical context for the AKM model, and a formal economic interpretation of their empirical person and firm effects. The model also yields an assortative matching result that predicts a negative correlation between estimated person and firm effects, which is consistent with most empirical evidence. Finally, the model makes novel predictions about the relationship between the person and firm effects and separation behavior, job duration, and firm size. In the second half of the paper, I test the model's empirical predictions. I estimate fixed and mixed effects specifications of the equilibrium wage function on the LEHD database. The mixed effect specifications generalize the earlier work of AKM and others. The learning component of the matching model implies a specific structure for the error covariance. I exploit this structure to test whether earnings residuals are consistent with Bayesian learning, and to estimate structural parameters of the matching model. I find considerable support for the matching model in these data.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0511012.

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Length: 60 pages
Date of creation: 15 Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0511012
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 60
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  3. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2002. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion with Worker and Employer Heterogeneity," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/c8dmi8nm4pd, Sciences Po.
  4. David Margolis, 1995. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," Post-Print halshs-00378229, HAL.
  5. Sattinger, Michael, 1995. "Search and the Efficient Assignment of Workers to Jobs," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(2), pages 283-302, May.
  6. Abowd, John M. & Kramarz, Francis, 1999. "Econometric analyses of linked employer-employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 53-74, March.
  7. Katz, Lawrence & Gibbons, Robert & Lemieux, Thomas & Parent, Daniel, 2005. "Comparative Advantage, Learning, and Sectoral Wage Determination," Scholarly Articles 2766651, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Shimer Robert & Smith Lones, 2001. "Matching, Search, and Heterogeneity," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-18, April.
  9. Ann P. Bartel & George J. Borjas, 1978. "Wage Growth and Job Turnover: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 0285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Milton Harris & Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "A Theory of Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(3), pages 315-333.
  11. Hausman, Jerry A, 1978. "Specification Tests in Econometrics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1251-71, November.
  12. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  13. Shimer, R. & Smith, L., 1997. "Assortative Matching and Search," Working papers 97-2a, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  14. John Abowd & Francis Kramarz & Paul Lengermann & Kevin McKinney & Sébastien Roux, 2012. "Persistent inter‐industry wage differences: rent sharing and opportunity costs," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 1(1), pages 1-25, December.
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  16. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
  17. 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.
  18. Andrews, Martyn J. & Gill, Len & Schank, Thorsten & Upward, Richard, 2006. "High wage workers and low wage firms : negative assortative matching or statistical artefact?," Discussion Papers 42, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
  19. Max Gruetter & Rafael Lalive, . "The Importance of Firms in Wage Determination," IEW - Working Papers 207, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  20. John M. Abowd & Paul A. Lengermann & Kevin L. McKinney, 2002. "The Measurement of Human Capital in the U.S. Economy," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Mar 2003.
  21. Sattinger, Michael, 1975. "Comparative Advantage and the Distributions of Earnings and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(3), pages 455-68, May.
  22. Steven Stern, 1990. "The Effects of Firm Optimizing Behaviour in Matching Models," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(4), pages 647-660.
  23. James Albrecht & Susan Vroman, 2002. "A Matching Model with Endogenous Skill Requirements," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(1), pages 283-305, February.
  24. Henry S. Farber & Robert Gibbons, 1996. "Learning and Wage Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(4), pages 1007-1047.
  25. Upward, Richard & Schank, Thorsten & J. Andrews, Martyn, 2005. "Practical estimation methods for linked employer-employee data," Discussion Papers 29 [rev.], Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
  26. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
  27. Goux, Dominique & Maurin, Eric, 1999. "Persistence of Interindustry Wage Differentials: A Reexamination Using Matched Worker-Firm Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(3), pages 492-533, July.
  28. Flinn, Christopher J, 1986. "Wages and Job Mobility of Young Workers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S88-S110, June.
  29. John M. Abowd (corresponding) & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Are Good Workers Employed by Good Firms? A Simple Test of Positive Assortative Matching Models," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 385, Econometric Society.
  30. Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1986. "Job Duration, Seniority, and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 1819, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  33. repec:adr:anecst:y:1999:i:55-56:p:07 is not listed on IDEAS
  34. John M. Abowd & Robert H. Creecy & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Computing Person and Firm Effects Using Linked Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  35. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  36. K. Newey, Whitney, 1985. "Generalized method of moments specification testing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 229-256, September.
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