Underpaid or Overpaid? Wage Analysis for Nurses Using Job and Worker Attributes

Source: Barry T. Hirsch and Edward J. Schumacher, Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 78, No. 4, April 2012
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From the abstract:
Nursing shortages are common despite the fact that nurses earn far higher wages than other college-educated women. Our analysis addresses the puzzle of “high” nursing wages. Employee data from the Current Population Survey are matched with detailed job descriptors from the Occupational Information Network. Nursing requires high levels of compensable skills and demanding working conditions. Standard log wage regression estimates indicate nursing wage advantages of about 40%. Accounting for job attributes reduces estimates to roughly 20%. Rather than transforming ordinary least squares log gaps to percentages, alternative methods measuring Mincerian gaps produce estimates of 15% or less. We conclude that nurses receive compensation that is much closer to opportunity costs than that seen in standard analyses, narrowing the shortage puzzle. Supply constraints in nurse licensing can produce wages above long-run opportunity costs but that are too low to clear short-run labor markets during periods of growing demand. The analysis provides broader implications for the conduct of wage analyses.

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