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Learning Your Comparative Advantages

  • Theodore Papageorgiou

    (Penn State University)

We introduce an equilibrium labor market model, where workers gradually learn about their unobserved production abilities. While engaged in a productive activity (occupation), workers observe their output and extract information that allows them to make inferences about their unobserved aptitudes. Because workers are learning about themselves, their output informs them not only about their productivity in their current occupation, but about their likely productivity in other occupations as well. As workers acquire more information, they self-select into the occupations in which they expect to perform best, and their wages increase. Returns to experience here capture improved job selection by workers as they sort through occupations and learn about their productive abilities. Our setup can account for the offsetting worker flows across occupations, the within-occupation wage inequality, as well the decline in the probability of occupational switching as workers grow older, that we observe in the data. We use this framework to investigate whether the interaction of learning and search frictions can lead to further decreases in output. Indeed, an increase in the unemployment rate similar to the one experienced by many European countries in the early 1970s is found to reduce the flow of output per employed worker by 1% annually.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2009 Meeting Papers with number 1150.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:1150
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  1. Kate Antonovics & Limor Golan, . "Experimentation and Job Choice," GSIA Working Papers 2006-E41, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  2. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, . "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," IPR working papers 97-18, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  3. Joshua C. Pinkston, 2006. "A Model of Asymmetric Employer Learning With Testable Implications," Working Papers 390, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. Joseph G. Altonji & Nicolas Williams, 2005. "Do wages rise with job seniority? A reassessment," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 370-397, April.
  5. Jean-Marc Robin & Francois Fontaine & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jesper Bagger, 2011. "A Feasible Equilibrium Search Model of Individual Wage Dynamics with Experience Accumulation," 2011 Meeting Papers 278, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Iourii Manovskii & Gueorgui Kambourov, 2004. "Occupational Specificity of Human Capital," 2004 Meeting Papers 197, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2001. "Rising Occupational and Industry Mobility in the United States:1968-1993," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-012, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 05 Jul 2004.
  8. Shimer, Robert, 2006. "On-the-job search and strategic bargaining," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 811-830, May.
  9. Giuseppe Moscarini, 2005. "Job Matching and the Wage Distribution," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 481-516, 03.
  10. Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1986. "Job Duration, Seniority and Earnings," Working papers 407, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2009. "Occupational Mobility and Wage Inequality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 731-759.
  12. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  13. Gathmann, Christina & Schönberg, Uta, 2006. "How General Is Specific Human Capital?," IZA Discussion Papers 2485, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. McCall, Brian P, 1990. "Occupational Matching: A Test of Sorts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(1), pages 45-69, February.
  15. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1999. "Inefficient Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2122, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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