IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Rational Inattention and Employer Learning


  • Habermalz, Steffen

    () (University of Mannheim)


Research on employer learning has provided important insights into the dynamic process that determines individual wages, especially during the early part of a worker's career. However, the recent evidence on the absence of employer learning for college graduates by Arcidiacono et al. (2008) and results that economic conditions at labor market entry have persistent effects on wages (for example Oreopoulos et al. (2008)) cast doubt on the model’s validity. This paper extends the employer learning model with the theory of rational inattention introduced by Sims (2006). In the model firms optimally allocate attention (=information processing capacity) to learning about the productivity of different worker groups. I find that firms allocate more attention to learning about the productivities of workers who have a higher impact on profits. Furthermore, firms learn about workers’ productivities as quickly as possible. Taken together these results resolve the discrepancy between the data and the employer learning model.

Suggested Citation

  • Habermalz, Steffen, 2010. "Rational Inattention and Employer Learning," IZA Discussion Papers 5311, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5311

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George Baker & Michael Gibbs & Bengt Holmstrom, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-955.
    2. Kahn, Lisa B., 2010. "The long-term labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 303-316, April.
    3. Devereux, Paul J., 2002. "The Importance of Obtaining a High-Paying Job," MPRA Paper 49326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Bauer, Thomas K. & Haisken-DeNew, John P., 2001. "Employer learning and the returns to schooling," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 161-180, May.
    5. Peter Arcidiacono & Patrick Bayer & Aurel Hizmo, 2010. "Beyond Signaling and Human Capital: Education and the Revelation of Ability," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 76-104, October.
    6. Fabian Lange, 2007. "The Speed of Employer Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 1-35.
    7. Paul Oyer, 2006. "Initial Labor Market Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes for Economists," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 143-160, Summer.
    8. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-688, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    rational inattention; endogenous information; employer learning;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5311. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.