A Formal Test of Assortative Matching in the Labor Market

John M. Abowd, Francis Kramarz, Sébastien Pérez-Duarte, Ian Schmutte

NBER Working Paper No. 15546
Issued in November 2009
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

We estimate a structural model of job assignment in the presence of coordination frictions due to Shimer (2005). The coordination friction model places restrictions on the joint distribution of worker and firm effects from a linear decomposition of log labor earnings. These restrictions permit estimation of the unobservable ability and productivity differences between workers and their employers as well as the way workers sort into jobs on the basis of these unobservable factors. The estimation is performed on matched employer-employee data from the LEHD program of the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimated correlation between worker and firm effects from the earnings decomposition is close to zero, a finding that is often interpreted as evidence that there is no sorting by comparative advantage in the labor market. Our estimates suggest that this finding actually results from a lack of sufficient heterogeneity in the workforce and available jobs. Workers do sort into jobs on the basis of productive differences, but the effects of sorting are not visible because of the composition of workers and employers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15546

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