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America’s Human Capital Paradox


  • Thomas A. Kochan

    () (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


It is widely recognized that human capital is essential to sustaining a competitive economy at high and rising living standards. Yet acceptance of persistent high unemployment, stagnant wages, and other indicators of declining job quality suggests that policymakers and employers undervalue human capital. This paper traces the root cause of this apparent paradox to the primacy afforded shareholder value over human resource considerations in American firms and the longstanding gridlock over employment policy. I suggest that a new jobs compact will be needed to close the deficit in jobs lost in the recent recession and to achieve sustained real wage growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas A. Kochan, 2012. "America’s Human Capital Paradox," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 12-180, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:12-180

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Benjamin R. Mandel, 2010. "Heterogeneous firms and import quality: evidence from transaction-level prices," International Finance Discussion Papers 991, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Robert C. Feenstra & Benjamin R. Mandel & Marshall B. Reinsdorf & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2013. "Effects of Terms of Trade Gains and Tariff Changes on the Measurement of US Productivity Growth," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 59-93, February.
    3. Jerry Hausman, 2003. "Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 23-44, Winter.
    4. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Lee G. Branstetter & C. Fritz Foley & James Harrigan & J. Bradford Jensen & Lori Kletzer & Catherine Mann & Peter K. Schott & Greg C. Wright, 2010. "Report on the State of Available Data for the Study of International Trade and Foreign Direct Investment," NBER Working Papers 16254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    social contract; jobs compact; job growth; wages;

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence

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