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Employer Learning and the Signaling Value of Education

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  • Joseph G. Altonji
  • Charles R. Pierret

Abstract

If profit maximizing firms have limited information about the general productivity of new workers, they may choose to use easily observable characteristics such as years of education to 'statistically discriminate' among workers. The pure credential value of education will depend on how quickly firms learn. To obtain information on employer learning, we work with a wage equation that contains both the interaction between experience and a hard-to-observe variable that is positively related to productivity and the interaction between experience and a variable that firms can easily observe, such as years of education. The time path of the coefficient on the unobservable productivity variable provides information about the rate at which employers learn about worker productivity. Using data from the NLSY we obtain preliminary estimates of the rate at which employers learn about worker quality and use these, along with some strong auxiliary assumptions, to explore the empirical relevance of the educational screening hypothesis. We show that even if employers learn relatively slowly about the productivity of new workers, the portion of the return to education that could reflect signaling of ability is limited.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5438.

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Date of creation: Jan 1996
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5438

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  1. Harry J. Holzer, 1986. "Search Method Use by Unemployed Youth," NBER Working Papers 1859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Albareto, G. & Mistrulli, P.E., 2010. "Bridging the gap between migrants and the banking system," MPRA Paper 26476, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. John H. Tyler, 2002. "Basic Skills and the Earnings of Dropouts," Working Papers 2002-09, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  3. H. Holzer & D. Neumark, . "Are affirmative action hires less qualified? Evidence from employer-employee data on new hires," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1113-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  4. Perri, Timothy J., 2002. "Signaling versus contingent contracts with costly turnover," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 365-374, August.
  5. Heisz, Andrew Oreopoulos, Philip, 2006. "The Importance of Signalling in Job Placement and Promotion," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2006236e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  6. H. J. Holzer, . "Employer skill needs and labor market outcome by race and gender," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1087-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  7. John H. Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 2000. "Do the Cognitive Skills of School Dropouts Matter in the Labor Market?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(4), pages 748-754.
  8. Michael J. Podgursky & Matthew G. Springer, 2007. "Teacher performance pay: A review," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 909-950.
  9. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 1997. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 6279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Theodore Koutmeridis, 2013. "The Market for "Rough Diamonds": Information, Finance and Wage Inequality," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201307, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews, revised 14 Oct 2013.
  11. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Yves Duhaldeborde & John H. Tyler, 2000. "How important are the cognitive skills of teenagers in predicting subsequent earnings?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 547-568.
  12. Theodore Koutmeridis, 2013. "The Market for "Rough Diamonds": Information, Finance and Wage Inequality," CDMA Working Paper Series 201307, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis, revised 14 Oct 2013.
  13. Heisz, Andrew Oreopoulos, Philip, 2006. "Importance des signaux de competence pour l'obtention d'un emploi et de l'avancement," Direction des etudes analytiques : documents de recherche 2006236f, Statistics Canada, Direction des etudes analytiques.

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