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Learning and Wage Dynamics

  • Henry S. Farber
  • Robert Gibbons

We develop a dynamic model of learning and wage determination: education may convey initial information about ability, but subsequent performance observations also are informative. Although the role of schooling in the labor market's inference process declines as performance observations accumulate, the estimated effect of schooling on the level of wages is independent of labor-market experience. In addition: time-invariant variables correlated with ability but unobserved by employers are increasingly correlated with wages as experience increases; wage residuals are a martingale; and wage cuts -are not rare, even for workers who do not change jobs. We present evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that is generally consistent with all four of the model's predictions. We conclude that a blend of the learning model with an on-the-job-training model is more plausible than either model alone.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3764.

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Date of creation: Jul 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics. Volume 111, issue 4, 1996 pp.1007-1047.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3764
Note: LS
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  1. Harris, Milton & Holstrom, Bengt, 1982. "A Theory of Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 315-33, July.
  2. Layard, Richard & Psacharopoulos, George, 1974. "The Screening Hypothesis and the Returns to Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 985-98, Sept./Oct.
  3. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  4. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-40, February.
  5. MacDonald, Glenn M, 1982. "A Market Equilibrium Theory of Job Assignment and Sequential Accumulation of Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1038-55, December.
  6. Chamberlain, Gary, 1982. "Multivariate regression models for panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 5-46, January.
  7. Albrecht, James W., 1980. "A Procedure for Testing the Signalling Hypothesis," Working Paper Series 29, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  8. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  9. Hause, John C, 1972. "Earnings Profile: Ability and Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(3), pages S108-S38, Part II, .
  10. John Bound & Alan B. Krueger, 1989. "The Extent of Measurement Error In Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make A Right?," NBER Working Papers 2885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Riley, John G, 1979. "Testing the Educational Screening Hypothesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S227-52, October.
  12. Lang, Kevin & Kropp, David, 1986. "Human Capital versus Sorting: The Effects of Compulsory Attendance Laws," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 609-24, August.
  13. Mclaughlin, K.J., 1990. "Rigid Wages?," RCER Working Papers 229, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
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