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Simple Models of a Human-Capital-Based Firm: a Reference Point Approach

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  • Paul Walker

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Abstract

Abstract One important feature of the knowledge economy is the increased importance placed on human capital, especially when dealing with the firm. We apply the reference point approach to contracts to the modelling of a human-capital-based firm. First, a model of firm scope is offered which argues that the organisation of a human-capital-based firm depends on the “types” of human capital involved. Having a firm based on a homogeneous group of human capital leads to a different organisational form than that of a firm which involves a heterogeneous group of human capital. Second, a simple model of a human-capital-based firm is discussed. Three organisational forms are considered: an investor-owned firm, a labour-owned firm and a market transaction involving the use of an independent contractor. Results are given that show when each of these forms is optimal. The effects of a firm’s size and scope on organisation are considered as is the question of why are there conversions from worker to investor ownership.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Walker, 2016. "Simple Models of a Human-Capital-Based Firm: a Reference Point Approach," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 7(1), pages 219-247, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jknowl:v:7:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s13132-014-0212-9
    DOI: 10.1007/s13132-014-0212-9
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    Keywords

    Knowledge firm; Contracts; Theory of the firm; Reference points; Human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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