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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1995. "The European unemployment dilemma," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 95-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. 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.
  5. Diego A. Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2006. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, Volume 20, pages 167-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Den Haan, Wouter & Haefke, Christian & Ramey, Gary, 2004. "Turbulence and Unemployment in a Job Matching Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 4765, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. 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.
  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, 2000. "The 1990s in Japan: a lost decade," Working Papers 607, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  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. Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits, 2010. "Uncertainty, Specificity and Institutions," 2010 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. John Coleman, 2006. "Accommodating Emerging Giants," 2006 Meeting Papers 50, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  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.
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