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Rational Inattention and Employer Learning

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  • Habermalz, Steffen

    ()
    (Northwestern University)

Abstract

Research on employer learning has provided important insights into the dynamic process that determines individual wages, especially during the early part of a worker's career. However, the recent evidence on the absence of employer learning for college graduates by Arcidiacono et al. (2008) and results that economic conditions at labor market entry have persistent effects on wages (for example Oreopoulos et al. (2008)) cast doubt on the model’s validity. This paper extends the employer learning model with the theory of rational inattention introduced by Sims (2006). In the model firms optimally allocate attention (=information processing capacity) to learning about the productivity of different worker groups. I find that firms allocate more attention to learning about the productivities of workers who have a higher impact on profits. Furthermore, firms learn about workers’ productivities as quickly as possible. Taken together these results resolve the discrepancy between the data and the employer learning model.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5311.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in: Oxford Economic Papers
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5311

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Keywords: endogenous information; rational inattention; employer learning;

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  1. Kahn, Lisa B., 2010. "The long-term labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 303-316, April.
  2. Bauer, Thomas & Haisken-DeNew, John P, 2000. "Employer Learning And The Returns To Schooling," CEPR Discussion Papers 2445, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Paul Oyer, 2006. "Initial Labor Market Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes for Economists," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 143-160, Summer.
  4. Patrick J. Bayer & Peter Arcidiacono & Aurel Hizmo, 2010. "Beyond Signaling and Human Capital: Education and the Revelation of Ability," Working Papers 10-51, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  5. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-88, August.
  6. Fabian Lange, 2007. "The Speed of Employer Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 1-35.
  7. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-55, November.
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