IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Uncertainty and the specificity of human capital

  • Gervais, Martin
  • Livshits, Igor
  • Meh, Césaire

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 143 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (November)
Pages: 469-498

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:143:y:2008:i:1:p:469-498
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. Diego Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2005. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 11388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J., 1997. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 178, Stockholm School of Economics.
  4. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2004. "European Unemployment and Turbulence Revisited in a Matching Model," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 456-468, 04/05.
  5. den Haan, Wouter J. & Haefke, Christian & Ramey, Garey, 2004. "Turbulence and Unemployment in a Job Matching Model," IZA Discussion Papers 1403, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Dirk Krueger & Krishna B. Kumar, 2003. "Skill-specific rather then General Education: A Reason for US-Europe Growth Differences?," NBER Working Papers 9408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Fumio Hayashi & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "The 1990s in Japan: A Lost Decade," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 206-235, January.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Michael E. Porter & Mariko Sakakibara, 2004. "Competition in Japan," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
  11. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Canadian Macro Study Group

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:143:y:2008:i:1:p:469-498. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.