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The Production of Human Capital and the Lifecycle of Earnings: Variations on a Theme


  • Jacob Mincer


After a brief summary of Ben Porath's 1967 model approach, I enquire into the empirical validity and some implications of his insights. Section 2 is an attempt to answer the question: Are the shapes and magnitudes of growth in wage profiles largely attributable to human capital investments? Section 3 tests the proposition that over the working age capacity wages (i.e. wages before netting out investment) decline before observed wages do. Implied timing of labor supply provides the test. The findings shed light on developments in the U.S. labor market in the past several decades. In section 4 some implications are drawn from Ben Porath's model for interpersonal differences and historical changes in life-cycle human capital investments. The positive correlation between schooling and training, predicted by the model is found in cross-sections. It also shows up in parallel movements in schooling and training in the 1980's as the demand for human capital increased. Once again, observed U.S. patterns are highlighted.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacob Mincer, 1994. "The Production of Human Capital and the Lifecycle of Earnings: Variations on a Theme," NBER Working Papers 4838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4838
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rosen, Harvey S, 1982. "Taxation and On-the-Job Training Decisions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(3), pages 442-449, August.
    2. Allen, Steven G, 2001. "Technology and the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 440-483, April.
    3. Blinder, Alan S & Weiss, Yoram, 1976. "Human Capital and Labor Supply: A Synthesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(3), pages 449-472, June.
    4. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-990, October.
    5. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    6. Stafford, Frank & Duncan, Greg J., 1979. "The Use of Time and Technology by Households in the United States," Working Paper Series 21, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    7. Sander, William & Krautmann, Anthony C, 1995. "Catholic Schools, Dropout Rates and Educational Attainment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(2), pages 217-233, April.
    8. Jacob Mincer, 1986. "Wage Changes in Job Changes," NBER Working Papers 1907, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. 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.
    10. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    11. Joanne Salop & Steven Salop, 1976. "Self-Selection and Turnover in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 619-627.
    12. Joanne Salop & Steven C. Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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