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Ben-Porath meets Lazear: Lifetime Skill Investment and Occupation Choice with Multiple Skills


  • Costas Cavounidis
  • Kevin Lang


We develop a fairly general and tractable model of investment when workers can invest in multiple skills and different jobs put different weights on those skills. In addition to expected findings such as that younger workers are more likely than older workers to respond to a demand shock by investing in skills whose value unexpectedly increases, we derive some less obvious results. Credit constraints may affect investment even when they do not bind it equilibrium. If there are mobility costs, firms will generally have an incentive to invest in some of their workers' skills even when there are a large number of similar competitors, and, in equilibrium, there can be overinvestment in all skills. Worker skill accumulation resembles learning by doing even in its absence. We demonstrate how the model can be simulated to show the effect of a shock to the price of individual skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Costas Cavounidis & Kevin Lang, 2017. "Ben-Porath meets Lazear: Lifetime Skill Investment and Occupation Choice with Multiple Skills," NBER Working Papers 23367, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23367
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bowlus, Audra J. & Mori, Hiroaki & Robinson, Chris, 2016. "Ageing and the skill portfolio: Evidence from job based skill measures," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 7(C), pages 89-103.
    2. María F. Prada & Sergio S. Urzúa, 2014. "One Size does not Fit All: Multiple Dimensions of Ability, College Attendance and Wages," NBER Working Papers 20752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Acemoglu, Daron & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1999. "Beyond Becker: Training in Imperfect Labour Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 112-142, February.
    4. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
    5. 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 352-352.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 2009. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(5), pages 914-940, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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