Is Job Stability in the US Falling? Reconciling Trends in the Current Population Survey and Panel Study of Income Dynamics

David A. Jaeger, Ann Huff Stevens

NBER Working Paper No. 6650
Issued in July 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Documenting trends in job stability over the past twenty-five years has become a controversial exercise. The two main sources of information on employer tenure, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and the Current Population Survey (CPS), have generally given different pictures of the degree of job stability in the U.S. economy. This paper examines whether the PSID and CPS yield systematically different results with respect to comparable measures of job stability. We find that there is little evidence in either data set of a trend in the share of employed individuals with one year or less of tenure. Both data sets do show an increase in the fraction of male workers aged 30 and over with tenure less than ten years beginning in the early 1990's. We find that the two data sets provide nearly identical results for the 1980's and 1990's while in the 1970's they give results that are somewhat less comparable. We argue that this is probably the result of changes in the CPS tenure question following the 1981 survey. The effects of this change and the choice of ending year and variable definition in PSID-based studies are the most likely explanations for the disparate findings in the literature.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6650

Published: Journal of Labor Economics (October 1999).

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