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Sector-specific human capital and the distribution of earnings


  • Eric Smith


This paper incorporates assignment frictions and sector-specific training into the Roy model of occupational choice. Assignment frictions represent the extent of the market whereas differences in sector-specific training reflect worker specialization. This framework thus captures Adam Smith's idea that the extent of the market determines the division of labor. The paper demonstrates the way in which the relationship between assignment frictions and specialization affects the level and composition of human capital acquisition, aggregate output, and the distribution of income. Not surprisingly, economy-wide training, output, and specialization increase as the extent of the market increases. The distribution of these gains, however, is uneven. Within group or residual income, distribution does not converge monotonically as search frictions diminish. Comparisons across groups reveal that these effects can become more pronounced as average income increases.

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  • Eric Smith, 2009. "Sector-specific human capital and the distribution of earnings," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2009-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2009-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Van Reenen, 1996. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of U. K. Companies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 195-226.
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    6. Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 2007. "Changes in wage inequality," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4667, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    8. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    9. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2009. "Occupational Mobility and Wage Inequality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 731-759.
    10. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    11. Huw Lloyd-Ellis, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 47-77, March.
    12. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
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