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Bureau of Labor Statistics > Office of Survey Methods and Research > Publications > Browse Research Papers

Evaluating Competing Theories of Worker Mobility

Henry S. Farber


In this study I use a sample of over fourteen thousand full-time jobs held by workers in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to examine mobility patterns and to evaluate theories of labor mobility (defined as change of employer). In particular, I investigate the following questions:

  1. How important is heterogeneity in determining mobility rates for young workers?

  2. Can heterogeneity in mobility rates be characterized as fixed differences across workers or as variable with workers changing types over time (either systematically or otherwise)?

  3. How important is state dependence in mobility rates? In other works, does mobility vary importantly with how long a worker has held his or her job?

  4. Does mobility decline systematically with how long a worker has held his or her job, or are there periods where likelihood of mobility increases?

  5. What do the facts discovered about the nature of the relationships between mobility and both heterogeneity and state dependence tell us about what actually causes mobility? Specifically, how important is the accumulation of specific capital, how important is the quality of particular matches between workers and firms, and how important is the underlying variation in the stability of workers?