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Assessing education’s contribution to productivity using firm-level evidence

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  • Lara Lebedinski
  • Vincent Vandenberghe

Abstract

Purpose - – There is plenty of individual-level evidence, based on the estimation of Mincerian equations, showing that better-educated individuals earn more. This is usually interpreted as a proof that education raises labour productivity. Some macroeconomists, analysing cross-country time series, also support the idea that the continuous expansion of education has contributed positively to growth. Surprisingly, most economists with an interest in human capital have neglected the level of the firm to study the education-productivity-wage nexus. And the few published works considering firm-level evidence are lacking a proper strategy to cope with the endogeneity problem inherent to the estimation production and wage functions. The purpose of this paper is to aim at providing estimates of the causal effect of education on productivity and wage labour costs. Design/methodology/approach - – This paper taps into a rich, firm-level, Belgian panel database that contains information on productivity, labour cost and the workforce’s educational attainment to deliver estimates of the causal effect of education on productivity and wage/labour costs. Therefore, it exclusively resorts to within firm changes to deal with time-invariant heterogeneity bias. What is more, it addresses the risk of simultaneity bias (endogeneity of firms’ education-mix choices in the short run) using the structural approach suggested by Ackerberg Findings - – Results suggest that human capital, in particular larger shares of university-educated workers inside firms, translate into significantly higher firm-level labour productivity, and that labour costs are relatively well aligned on education-driven labour productivity differences. In other words, the authors find evidence that the Mincerian relationship between education and individual wages is driven by a strong positive link between education and firm-level productivity. Originality/value - – Surprisingly, most economists with an interest in human capital have neglected the level of the firm to study the education-productivity-pay nexus. Other characteristics of the workforce, like gender or age have been much more investigated at the level of the firm by industrial or labour economists (Hellerstein

Suggested Citation

  • Lara Lebedinski & Vincent Vandenberghe, 2014. "Assessing education’s contribution to productivity using firm-level evidence," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(8), pages 1116-1139, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijmpps:v:35:y:2014:i:8:p:1116-1139
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hellerstein, Judith K & Neumark, David, 1999. "Sex, Wages, and Productivity: An Empirical Analysis of Israeli Firm-Level Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(1), pages 95-123, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bartelsman, Eric & Dobbelaere, Sabien & Peters, Bettina, 2013. "Allocation of Human Capital and Innovation at the Frontier: Firm-Level Evidence on Germany and the Netherlands," IZA Discussion Papers 7540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. V. Vandenberghe, 2017. "The productivity challenge. What to expect from better-quality labour and capital inputs?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(40), pages 4013-4025, August.
    3. Rycx, Francois & Saks, Yves & Tojerow, Ilan, 2016. "Misalignment of Productivity and Wages across Regions? Evidence from Belgian Matched Panel Data," IZA Discussion Papers 10336, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. François Rycx & Yves Saks & Ilan Tojerow, 2015. "Does Education Raise Productivity and Wages Equally? The Moderating Roles of Age, Gender and Industry," Working Paper Research 281, National Bank of Belgium.
    5. Abdul Azeez Oluwanisola Abdul Wahab, 2017. "Modeling the Effect of Healthcare Expenditure and Education Expenditure on Labour Productivity: A Study on OIC Countries," GATR Journals jber134, Global Academy of Training and Research (GATR) Enterprise.
    6. Vincent Vandenberghe, 2017. "The Contribution of Educated Workers to Firms' Efficiency Gains The Key Role of the Proximity to Frontier," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2017012, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    7. Sabien Dobbelaere & Mark Vancauteren, 2014. "Market imperfections, skills and total factor productivity : Firm-level evidence on Belgium and the Netherlands," Working Paper Research 267, National Bank of Belgium.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Heterogeneity; Education; Endogeneity; Firm-level productivity; Labour cost; Simultaneity;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • C51 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Construction and Estimation

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