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Third Quarter 2019, 
Vol. 101, No. 3
Posted 2019-07-12

Occupational Mobility and Lifetime Earnings

by Yongseok Shin and C.Y. Kelvin Yuen

People’s occupations have a significant amount of information about their wages. However, because people—especially young workers—go through multiple occupations and employment statuses during their working lives, we find that their occupations at a young age do not predict their lifetime earnings well. When educational attainment and gender are considered, we find that across education-gender groups the differences in lifetime earnings are even larger than the differences in average occupational wages: Workers in high-wage education-gender groups (men with college degrees, for example) work more (at the extensive margin) and are more likely to have higher-paying occupations.

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