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Minu, Startu and all that:- Pitfalls in estimating the sensitivity of a worker’s wage to aggregate unemployment

Pedro Martins, Andy Snell () and Jonathan Thomas ()

No 2010-109, SIRE Discussion Papers from Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE)

Abstract: In this paper we show that the inclusion of unemployment-tenure interaction variates in Mincer wage equations is subject to serious pitfalls. These variates were designed to test whether or not the sensitivity to the business cycle of a worker’s wage varies according to her tenure. We show that three canonical variates used in the literature - the minimum unemployment rate during a worker’s time at the firm(min u), the unemployment rate at the start of her tenure(Su) and the current unemployment rate interacted with a new hire dummy(δu) - can all be significant and "correctly" signed even when each worker in the firm receives the same wage, regardless of tenure (equal treatment). In matched data the problem can be resolved by the inclusion in the panel of firm-year interaction dummies. In unmatched data where this is not possible, we propose a solution for min u and Su based on Solon, Barsky and Parker’s(1994) two step method. This method is sub-optimal because it ignores a large amount of cross tenure variation in average wages and is only valid when the scaled covariances of firm wages and firm employment are acyclical. Unfortunately δu cannot be identified in unmatched data because a differential wage response to unemployment of new hires and incumbents will appear under both equal treatment and unequal treatment.

Date: 2010
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