An Empirical Analysis of Income Dynamics among Men in the PSID: 1968–1989
This study uses data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID) to address a number of questions about life-cycle earnings mobility. It develops a dynamic reduced-form model of earnings and marital status that is nonstationary over the life-cycle. A Gibbs sampling-data augmentation algorithm facilitates use of the entire sample and provides numerical approximations to the exact posterior distribution of properties of earnings paths. This algorithm copes with the complex distribution of endogenous variables that are observed for short segments of an individual’s work history, not including the initial period. The study reaches several firm conclusions about life cycle earnings mobility. Incorporating non-Gaussian shocks makes it possible to account for transitions between low and higher earnings states, a heretofore unresolved problem. The non-Gaussian distribution substantially increases the lifetime return to postsecondary education, and substantially reduces differences in lifetime wages attributable to race. In a given year, the majority of variance in earnings not accounted for by race, education, and age is due to transitory shocks, but over a lifetime the majority is due to unobserved individual heterogeneity. Consequently, low earnings at early ages are strong predictors of low earnings later in life, even conditioning on observed individual characteristics.
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