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Uncertainty and the specificity of human capital

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

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gervais, Martin & Livshits, Igor & Meh, Césaire, 2008. "Uncertainty and the specificity of human capital," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 469-498, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:143:y:2008:i:1:p:469-498
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    Cited by:

    1. UEDA Kenichi & Stijn CLAESSENS, 2016. "Monopoly Rights and Economic Growth: An inverted U-shaped relation," Discussion papers 16093, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    2. Kenichi Ueda & Stijn Claessen, 2016. "Monopoly Rights and Economic Growth: An Inverted U-Shaped Relation," CARF F-Series CARF-F-396, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.
    3. Pedros Silos & Eric Smith, 2015. "Human Capital Portfolios," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 635-652, July.
    4. Pedros Silos & Eric Smith, 2015. "Human Capital Portfolios," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 635-652, July.
    5. Eggenberger, Christian & Rinawi, Miriam & Backes-Gellner, Uschi, 2018. "Occupational specificity: A new measurement based on training curricula and its effect on labor market outcomes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 97-107.
    6. Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits, 2010. "Uncertainty, Specificity and Institutions," 2010 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Uncertainty Labor contracts Specific human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing

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