Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Human Capital on the High Seas - Job Mobility and Returns to Technical Skill During Industrialization

Glaser, Darrell and Rahman, Ahmed (2015): Human Capital on the High Seas - Job Mobility and Returns to Technical Skill During Industrialization.

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Abstract

This paper examines the effects of engineer-oriented and technical experience on job mobility during an era known for its rapid technological innovation and capital advancements: the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We first develop an on-the-job search model to help us understand factors leading to job switching under rigid payment systems. Then, using longitudinal data on British and American naval officer- and engineer-careers, we demonstrate how ceteris paribus earnings-increases through promotions can decrease the probability of job switching. We also show how different forms of technical experience affect probabilities of job switching. Combining both insights and following a Topel and Ward (1992) based empirical framework, we find various rates of return to engineering and technical experience comparable to rates of return found today. To our knowledge these are the earliest historic estimates of returns to any type of technical skill.

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