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Over the past two decades there have been substantial changes in the health care sector in general and hospitals in particular. These changes in turn have had an impact on the labor market for nurses. Nursing comprises the third largest occupation among women (behind secretaries and teachers) and is the largest occupation in hospitals, accounting for about a quarter of total hospital employment in 1992 (Wootton & Ross, 1995). It is well documented that there were substantial "shortages" of qualified RNs during the 1980s, reaching a peak in the late 1980s (Aiken & Mullinex, 1987; Buerhaus, 1993; Hassanein, 1991; McKibbon, 1990). Recently, however, new RNs are having a more difficult time finding employment after graduation and shortages are no longer perceived to pose a problem in the nursing labor market (Brider, 1996; Buerhaus, 1995). As the health care industry continues to evolve, an understanding of the labor market for registered nurses is essential to understanding how this market will respond to change. While there has been substantial research on the labor market for RNs, these studies focus primarily on monopsony power (Hirsch & Schumacher, 1995; Sullivan, 1989), labor supply (Phillips, 1996; Link 1992), unionism (Hirsch & Schumacher, in press; Adamache & Sloan, 1982; Feldman & Scheffler, 1982; Cain et al., 1981 ), or schooling (Lehrer et al., 1991; Link, 1988; Booton & Lane, 1985). There has been little research, however, providing wage analysis of RNs over time or relative to wage opportunities outside of nursing.


This peer-reviewed journal article was reprinted in a book under the same title in 2004.


Solomon W. Polachek


JAI Press Inc.

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Research in Labor Economics