The empirical literature on unemployment almost exclusively focuses on the duration of distinct unemployment spells. In contrast, we use a large German administrative micro data set for the time span 1975-2004 to investigate individual lifetime unemployment (defined as the total length of all unemployment spells over a 25-year period). This new perspective enables us to answer questions regarding the longterm distribution and determinants of unemployment for West German birth cohorts 1950-1954. We find that lifetime unemployment is highly unevenly distributed and employ censored quantile regressions to show that, for men, pursuing a disadvantageous occupation early in the professional career leads to a significantly higher amount of lifetime unemployment.
Lifetime unemployment Censored quantile regressions Occupation-specific human capital