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The Money Value of a Man

This paper posits a notion of the value of an individual's human capital and the associated return on human capital. These concepts are examined using U.S. data on male earnings and financial asset returns. We decompose the value of human capital into a bond, a stock and a residual value component. We find that (1) the bond component of human capital is larger than the stock component at all ages, (2) the value of human capital is far below the value implied by discounting earnings at the risk-free rate, (3) mean human capital returns exceed stock returns early in life and decline with age and (4) human capital returns and stock returns have a small positive correlation over the working lifetime.

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Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~12-12-02.

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Date of creation: 02 Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~12-12-02
Contact details of provider: Postal: Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Phone: 202-687-6074
Fax: 202-687-6102
Web page: http://econ.georgetown.edu/
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Order Information: Postal: Roger Lagunoff Professor of Economics Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Web: http://econ.georgetown.edu/ Email:


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  1. Huggett, Mark & Kaplan, Greg, 2011. "Human capital values and returns: Bounds implied by earnings and asset returns data," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 897-919, May.
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  12. Mark Huggett & Juan Carlos Parra, 2010. "How Well Does the U.S. Social Insurance System Provide Social Insurance?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(1), pages 76-112, 02.
  13. Svensson, Lars E. O. & Werner, Ingrid M., 1993. "Nontraded assets in incomplete markets : Pricing and portfolio choice," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 1149-1168, June.
  14. Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2010. "Earnings, consumption and lifecycle choices," IFS Working Papers W10/05, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  15. Robert H. Haveman & Andrew Bershadker & Jonathan A. Schwabish, 2003. "Human Capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of Growth and Utilization," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number hcus, March.
  16. Johansen, Soren, 1995. "Likelihood-Based Inference in Cointegrated Vector Autoregressive Models," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198774501, March.
  17. Fatih Guvenen & Anthony Smith, 2010. "Inferring labor income risk from economic choices: an indirect inference approach," Staff Report 450, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  18. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura & Amir Yaron, 2010. "Sources of Lifetime Inequality," Working Papers 2011-020, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  19. Hanno Lustig & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, 2005. "The Returns on Human Capital: Good News on Wall Street is Bad News on Main Street," NBER Working Papers 11564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1991. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 263-86, April.
  21. Zvi Bodie & Robert C. Merton & William F. Samuelson, 1992. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice in a Life-Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 3954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2004. "Cyclical Dynamics in Idiosyncratic Labor Market Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 695-717, June.
  23. Alvarez, F. & Jermann, U.J., 2000. "Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles," Weiss Center Working Papers 00-1, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  24. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-45, November.
  25. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," Working Papers 2001-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  26. Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance John & Todd, Petra E., 2005. "Earnings Functions, Rates of Return and Treatment Effects: The Mincer Equation and Beyond," IZA Discussion Papers 1700, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  27. Luca Benzoni & Pierre Collin-Dufresne & Robert S. Goldstein, 2007. "Portfolio Choice over the Life-Cycle when the Stock and Labor Markets Are Cointegrated," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(5), pages 2123-2167, October.
  28. Eric French, 2004. "The Labor Supply Response to (Mismeasured but) Predictable Wage Changes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 602-613, May.
  29. Heckman, James J, 1976. "A Life-Cycle Model of Earnings, Learning, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S11-44, August.
  30. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 2000. "Household Portfolios in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2549, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  31. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  32. Baxter, M. & Jermann, U.J., 1993. "The International Diversification Puzzle is Worse than you Think," RCER Working Papers 350, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  33. Graham, John W & Webb, Roy H, 1979. "Stocks and Depreciation of Human Capital: New Evidence from a Present-Value Perspective," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 25(2), pages 209-24, June.
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