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Uncertainty and the specificity of human capital

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  • Gervais, Martin
  • Livshits, Igor
  • Meh, Cesaire

Abstract

This paper studies the choice between general and specific human capital. A trade-off arises because general human capital, while less productive, can easily be reallocated across firms. Accordingly, the fraction of individuals with specific human capital depends on the amount of uncertainty in the economy. Our model implies that while economies with more specific human capital tend to be more productive, they also tend to be more vulnerable to turbulence. As such, our theory sheds some light on the experience of Japan, where human capital is notoriously specific: while Japan benefited from this predominately specific labor force in tranquil times, this specificity may also have been at the heart of its prolonged stagnation. Keywords; uncertainty, labor contracts, specific human capital

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Paper provided by Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton in its series Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics with number 0713.

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Date of creation: 31 Oct 2007
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Handle: RePEc:stn:sotoec:0713

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  1. Wouter J. den Haan & Christian Haefke & Garey Ramey, 2005. "Turbulence And Unemployment In A Job Matching Model," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(6), pages 1360-1385, December.
  2. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1996. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 36, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
  3. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J, 2004. "European Unemployment and Turbulence Revisited in a Matching Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 4183, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Fumio Hayashi & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Data Appendix to The 1990s in Japan: A Lost Decade," Technical Appendices hayashi02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
  5. Dirk Krueger & Krishna B. Kumar, 2004. "Skill-Specific rather than General Education: A Reason for US--Europe Growth Differences?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 167-207, 06.
  6. Diego Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2005. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 11388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wasmer, Etienne, 2003. "Interpreting European and US Labour Market Differences: The Specificity of Human Capital Investments," CEPR Discussion Papers 3780, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Fumio Hayashi & Edward C. Prescott, 2000. "The 1990s in Japan: a lost decade," Working Papers 607, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Odagiri, Hiroyuki & Yamawaki, Hideki, 1986. "A study of company profit-rate time series : Japan and the United States," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-23, March.
  10. Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits, 2010. "Uncertainty, Specificity and Institutions," 2010 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Takeo Hoshi & Anil K. Kashyap, 2004. "Japan's Financial Crisis and Economic Stagnation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 3-26, Winter.
  12. Ricardo J. Caballero & Takeo Hoshi & Anil K. Kashyap, 2006. "Zombie Lending and Depressed Restructuring in Japan," NBER Working Papers 12129, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Michael E. Porter & Mariko Sakakibara, 2004. "Competition in Japan," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
  14. John Coleman, 2006. "Accommodating Emerging Giants," 2006 Meeting Papers 50, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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Cited by:
  1. Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits, 2010. "Uncertainty, Specificity and Institutions," 2010 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Pedro Silos & Eric Smith, 2012. "Human capital portfolios," Working Paper 2012-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

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