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Disciplining the Human Capital Model: Learning By Doing, Ben-Porath, and Policy Analysis

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  • Adam Blandin

    (Arizona State University)

Abstract

The human capital literature is largely split between two models of human capital investment: Learning By Doing (LBD) and Ben-Porath (BP). Given the importance of human capital investment for a host of policy issues, I ask whether observable macroeconomic moments are informative about the relative importance of LBD investment versus BP investment. A life-cycle human capital model is constructed which nests both LBD and BP as extreme special cases. I find: (1) Both the BP and LBD versions of the model are consistent with the aggregate distribution of earnings, hourly wages, and hours worked for men in the PSID. (2) Conditional on matching these aggregate levels facts, the BP version of the model is more consistent with the variance in earnings growth rates in the data. (3) Policies which decrease the return to human capital investment, such as a progressive earnings tax, decrease aggregate human capital investment and earnings substantially more in a BP world than in a LBD world. Taken together my findings suggest that within a plausibly parametrized model of human capital accumulation, government policies which reduce the return to human capital investment will generate large decreases in human capital investment and earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Blandin, 2015. "Disciplining the Human Capital Model: Learning By Doing, Ben-Porath, and Policy Analysis," 2015 Meeting Papers 1147, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed015:1147
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alejandro Badel & Mark Huggett & Wenlan Luo, 2020. "Taxing Top Earners: a Human Capital Perspective," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 130(629), pages 1200-1225.
    2. Fatih Guvenen & Burhanettin Kuruscu & Serdar Ozkan, 2014. "Taxation of Human Capital and Wage Inequality: A Cross-Country Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(2), pages 818-850.
    3. Heckman, James J, 1976. "A Life-Cycle Model of Earnings, Learning, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 11-44, August.
    4. Hansen, Gary D. & Imrohoroglu, Selahattin, 2009. "Business cycle fluctuations and the life cycle: How important is on-the-job skill accumulation?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2293-2309, November.
    5. Fabian Kindermann & Dirk Krueger, 2014. "The Redistributive Benefits of Progressive Labor and Capital Income Taxation," 2014 Meeting Papers 221, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. William Peterman, 2016. "The effect of endogenous human capital accumulation on optimal taxation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 21, pages 46-71, July.
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    1. Disciplining the Human Capital Model: Learning By Doing, Ben-Porath, and Policy Analysis
      by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2015-11-10 22:40:56

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