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Wage Structures and Labor Turnover in the U.S. and in Japan


  • Jacob Mincer
  • Yoshio Higuchi


The starting point of this study is the proposition that intensive formation of human capital on the job is the basic proximate reason for the strong degree of worker attachment to the firm in Japan. The greater emphasis on training and retraining, much of it specific to the firm, results also in steeper wage trajectories, due to growth of skills in the firm. We explore this insight more thoroughly by a detailed use of micro-data for the two countries: We measure wage profiles and turnover in age groups, and we test the inverse relation between the two on industry sectors within each of the countries. Using productivity growth indexes for industries in the U.S. and in Japan we test the hypothesis that rapid technical change which induces greater and continuous training, is responsible for steeper profiles, hence indirectly for lesser turnover. The hypothesis is confirmed on the sectoral level in both countries. Finally, we try to standardize for the cultural background of workers, by observing a sample of Japanese plants in the U.S. which employ American workers, and use Japanese labor policies in recruitment and training. We find that the steeper tenure-wage slopes and lower turnover place this sample closer to Japan than to the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacob Mincer & Yoshio Higuchi, 1987. "Wage Structures and Labor Turnover in the U.S. and in Japan," NBER Working Papers 2306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2306
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rosen, Harvey S & Rosen, Kenneth T, 1980. "Federal Taxes and Homeownership: Evidence from Time Series," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 59-75, February.
    2. King, Mervyn A., 1980. "An econometric model of tenure choice and demand for housing as a joint decision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 137-159, October.
    3. Patric H. Hendershott & Joel Slemrod, 1982. "Taxes and the User Cost of Capital for Owner-Occupied Housing," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 10(4), pages 375-393.
    4. Mervyn A. King, 1980. "An econometric model of tenure choice and demand for housing as a joint decision," NBER Chapters,in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 137-159 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ono, Hiroshi, 2000. "College Quality and Earnings in the Japanese Labor Market," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 395, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 11 Mar 2003.
    2. Ono, Hiroshi, 2007. "Does examination hell pay off ? A cost-benefit analysis of "ronin" and college education in Japan," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 271-284, June.
    3. Parent, Daniel, 1996. "Survol des contributions théoriques et empiriques liées au capital humain," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 72(3), pages 315-356, septembre.

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