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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.

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

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

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:143:y:2008:i:1:p:469-498
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622869

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  1. 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.
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  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. Ricardo J. Caballero & Takeo Hoshi & Anil K. Kashyap, 2008. "Zombie Lending and Depressed Restructuring in Japan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1943-77, December.
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  7. Wouter J. Den Haan & Christian Haefke & Garey Ramey, 2004. "Turbulence and Unemployment in a Job Matching Model," Working Papers 142, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  8. Fumio Hayashi & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Data Appendix to The 1990s in Japan: A Lost Decade," Technical Appendices hayashi02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
  9. Fumio Hayashi & Edward C. Prescott, 2004. "The 1990s in Japan: a lost decade," Chapters, in: The Economics of an Ageing Population, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  10. 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.
  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.
  12. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474, 12-2014.
  13. 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.
  14. Michael E. Porter & Mariko Sakakibara, 2004. "Competition in Japan," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
  15. Masanori Hashimoto & Yoshio Higuchi, 2005. "Issues Facing the Japanese Labor Market," Working Papers 05-01, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
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