Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 215–272 | Cite as

The fortunes of one's birth: Relative cohort size and the youth labor market in the United States

  • Diane J. Macunovich


Using two different measures of relative cohort size – one indicating the size and placement of an individual's own birth cohort, and the other, the ratio of young to prime age adults in the United States in that year – it has been possible to isolate strong effects of the population age structure on wages in the United States over the past thirty-three years. These effects have been strong enough that virtually all of the observed change in the experience premium, and a substantial proportion of the changes in the college wage premium, can be explained by the relative cohort size variables alone. Even changes in the amount of within-group variance in wages appear to be largely a function of changing age structure, and absolute wage levels have been strongly affected by these demographic changes, suggesting that population growth can have positive effects on the economy.

JEL classification: J21 J23 J31 
Key words: Wages cohort size youth labor market 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane J. Macunovich
    • 1
  1. 1.Maxwell Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA (Fax: (315) 443-1081; e-mail:

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