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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 Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 707.

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Date of creation: May 1994
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp01mc87pq252
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  1. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1990. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Working Papers 645, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Albrecht, James W., 1981. "A procedure for testing the signalling hypothesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 123-132, February.
  5. 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.
  6. Milton Harris & Bengt Holmstrom, 1981. "A Theory of Wage Dynamics," Discussion Papers 488, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Chamberlain, Gary, 1982. "Multivariate regression models for panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 5-46, January.
  8. 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, .
  9. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  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. Mclaughlin, K.J., 1990. "Rigid Wages?," RCER Working Papers 229, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  13. 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.
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