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The Theory of Human Capital Revisited: On the Interaction of General and Specific Investments

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  • Kessler, Anke
  • Lülfesmann, Christoph

Abstract

Human capital theory distinguishes between training in general-usage and firm-specific skills. In his seminal work, Becker (1964) argues that employers will not be willing to invest in general training when labour markets are competitive. However, they are willing to invest in specific training because it cannot be transferred to outside firms. The paper reconsiders Becker's theory. We show that there exists an incentive complementarity between employer-sponsored general and specific investments: the possibility to provide specific training leads the employer to invest in general human capital. Conversely, the latter reduces the hold-up problem that arises with respect to the provision of firm-specific training. These findings hold even if there is no technological link between the two types of training. We also consider the virtues of long-term contracting and discuss some empirical observations that could be explained by the model.

Suggested Citation

  • Kessler, Anke & Lülfesmann, Christoph, 2000. "The Theory of Human Capital Revisited: On the Interaction of General and Specific Investments," CEPR Discussion Papers 2533, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2533
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    General And Specific Training; Hold-Up Problem; Human Capital Formation;

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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