Institute for Economic and Social Research

Estimating Trends in Male Earnings Volatility with the Panel Study of Income Dynamics


Journal of Business and Economic Statistics

Robert Moffitt & Sisi Zhang


The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) has been the workhorse dataset used to estimate trends in U.S. earnings volatility at the individual level. We provide updated estimates for male earnings volatility using additional years of data. The analysis confirms prior work showing upward trends in the 1970s and 1980s, with a near doubling of the level of volatility over that period. The results also confirm prior work showing a resumption of an upward trend starting in the 2000s, but the new years of data available show volatility to be falling in recent years. By 2018, volatility had grown by a modest amount relative to the 1990s, with a growth rate only one-fifth the magnitude of that in the 1970s and 1980s. We show that neither attrition or item nonresponse bias, nor other issues with the PSID, affect these conclusions.


Copyright © 2019 Institute for Economic and Social Research ICP record No.: Yue ICP Bei No. 12087612