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Abstract: This paper studies variation in individual labor income over time using a panel vector autoregression (PVAR) in income, the wage rate, hours of work, and hours of unemployment. The framework is used to investigate how much of the residual variation in labor income is due to residual variation in the wage rate, work hours, and unemployment hours. I also explore the dynamic effects of unanticipated changes in each of the variables in the system, investigate their interactions, and assess their contribution to short-run and long-run income movements. The model is estimated on a sample of male household heads from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). I find that innovations in the wage rate and work hours (conditional on unemployment) are about equally important in the short run. Wage innovations are very persistent, while the effect of changes in hours is mostly transitory. As a result, the wage rate is much more important in the determination of income movements in the long run. Innovations in unemployment have a relatively small, but very persistent effect on income which operates through the wage rate.

Keywords: Earnings dynamics, income determination, wage shocks, unemployment

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