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Uncertainty and the Specificity of Human Capital

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  • Martin Gervais
  • Igor Livshits
  • Césaire Meh

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

  • Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits & Césaire Meh, 2007. "Uncertainty and the Specificity of Human Capital," Staff Working Papers 07-57, Bank of Canada.
  • Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:07-57
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    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 1943-1977, December.
    5. Hashimoto, Masanori & Raisian, John, 1985. "Employment Tenure and Earnings Profiles in Japan and the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 721-735, September.
    6. 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.
    7. Wouter J. den Haan & Christian Haefke & Garey Ramey, 2005. "Turbulence And Unemployment In A Job Matching Model," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(6), pages 1360-1385, December.
    8. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474.
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    11. 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, June.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Gervais & Igor Livshits, 2010. "Uncertainty, Specificity and Institutions," 2010 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    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. 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).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Models;

    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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