Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men

56 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2004 Last revised: 30 Mar 2022

See all articles by Robert H. Topel

Robert H. Topel

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael P. Ward

Welch Consulting

Date Written: July 1988


We study the joint processes of job mobility and wage growth among young men drawn from the Longitudinal Employee-Employer Data. Following individuals at three month intervals from their entry into the labor market, we track career patterns of job changing and the evolution of wages for up to 15 years. Following an initial period of weak attachment to both the labor force and particular employers, careers tend to stabilize in the sense of strong labor force attachment and increasing durability of jobs. During the first 10 years in the labor market, a typical young worker will work for seven employers, which accounts for about two-thirds of the total number of jobs he will hold in his career. The evolution of wages plays a key role in this transition to stable employment: we estimate that wage gains at job changes account for at least a third of early-career wage growth, and that the wage is the key determinant of job changing decisions among young workers. We conclude that the process of job changing for young workers, while apparently haphazard, is a critical component of workers' move toward the stable employment relations that characterize mature careers.

Suggested Citation

Topel, Robert H. and Ward, Michael P., Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men (July 1988). NBER Working Paper No. w2649, Available at SSRN:

Robert H. Topel (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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Michael P. Ward

Welch Consulting

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