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The Economics of Has-Beens

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  • Glenn MacDonald
  • Michael Weisbach

Abstract

Evolution of technology causes human capital to become obsolete. We study this phenomenon in an overlapping generations setting, assuming it is hard to predict how technology will evolve, and that older workers find updating uneconomic. Among our results is the proposition that (under certain conditions) a more rapid pace of technological advance is especially unfavorable to the old in the sense that the implied within-industry division of output or income between young and old becomes much more skewed, i.e., a smaller number of young earn comparatively more. We apply our results to architecture, an occupation in which the has-beens phenomenon has had a particularly acute impact.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn MacDonald & Michael Weisbach, 2001. "The Economics of Has-Beens," NBER Working Papers 8464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8464
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    3. Kristiina Huttunen, 2005. "R&D Activity, Exports, and Changes in Skill Demand in Finland," Finnish Economic Papers, Finnish Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 72-85, Autumn.
    4. David J Deming & Kadeem Noray, 2020. "Earnings Dynamics, Changing Job Skills, and STEM Careers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 135(4), pages 1965-2005.
    5. Meyer, Jenny, 2007. "Older Workers and the Adoption of New Technologies," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-050, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    6. Brox, James A. & Carvalho, Emanuel, 2008. "A Demographically Augmented Shift-Share Employment Analysis: An Application to Canadian Employment Patterns," Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, Mid-Continent Regional Science Association, vol. 38(1), pages 1-11.
    7. Inés P. Murillo, 2011. "Human capital obsolescence: some evidence for Spain," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 426-445, July.
    8. Centeno, Mário & Corrêa, Márcio, 2010. "Job matching, technological progress, and worker-provided on-the-job training," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 109(3), pages 190-192, December.
    9. Luc Behaghel, 2006. "Changement technologique et formation tout au long de la vie," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 57(6), pages 1351-1382.
    10. Madiès, Thierry & Villeval, Marie Claire & Wasmer, Malgorzata, 2013. "Intergenerational attitudes towards strategic uncertainty and competition: A field experiment in a Swiss bank," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 153-168.
    11. Tervio, Marko, 2003. "Mediocrity in Talent Markets," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt7411j2vx, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    12. Fillmore, Ian & Hall, Jonathan D., 2021. "Technological change and obsolete skills: Evidence from men’s professional tennis," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    13. Perri, T. J., 2003. "The cost of specialized human capital," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 433-438, August.
    14. Schneider, Lutz, 2007. "Alterung und technologisches Innovationspotential : Eine Linked-Employer-Employee-Analyse," IWH Discussion Papers 2/2007, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    15. Donald E. Bowen III & Laurent Frésard & Jérôme P. Taillard, 2017. "What’s Your Identification Strategy? Innovation in Corporate Finance Research," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 63(8), pages 2529-2548, August.
    16. Jun Han & Wing Suen, 2011. "Age structure of the workforce in growing and declining industries: evidence from Hong Kong," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 167-189, January.
    17. Alders, Peter, 2005. "Human capital growth and destruction: the effect of fertility on skill obsolescence," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 503-520, May.
    18. Cörvers, F. & Kriechel, B. & Montizaan, R.M., 2006. "Scenario-analyse van de vervangingsvraag tot 2010," ROA Working Paper 001, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    19. de Grip, A., 2006. "Evaluating human capital obsolescence," ROA Working Paper 2E, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    20. Vikas Mehrotra & Randall Morck, 2017. "Governance and Stakeholders," NBER Working Papers 23460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Meyer, Jenny, 2008. "The Adoption of New Technologies and the Age Structure of the Workforce," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-045, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    22. Weinberg, Bruce A., 2004. "Experience and Technology Adoption," IZA Discussion Papers 1051, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    JEL classification:

    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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