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Essays on occupation-specific human capital investment and occupational mobility

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Wang, Yang
My thesis focuses on occupation-specific human capital investment and occupational mobility. The first chapter of my thesis investigates gender disparities in early-career wage returns to firm tenure, occupational tenure, industry tenure, and general labor market experience. I show that the relative importance of various types of tenure differs across genders: occupational tenure matters more than industry tenure in men’s wages, while industry tenure matters more than occupational tenure for women. Averaging across all occupations, early-career wage growth associated with occupational tenure is substantially higher for men than women. I then explore the underlying reasons for gender disparities in wage growth with occupational tenure. I show that gender differences in hours of work and occupational choice partially explain the gender gap in tenure returns, but I find no evidence that gender differences in human capital investment in education prior to labor market entry contribute to the gap. Given the evidence that occupational changes tend to improve occupational match quality, the observed higher occupational mobility of men relative to women may also explain the gender gap in wage growth with occupational tenure. The second chapter examines whether negative housing equity affects homeowners’ occupational mobility. Homeowners with negative equity face stricter constraints and relatively higher occupational mobility cost than renters and homeowners who are not “underwater" which might potentially limit their ability to change occupations. I don’t find any strong evidence that negative equity affects homeowners’ occupational mobility in either recourse or non-recourse states. The third chapter examines the extent to which shifts in occupational structure explain the upward trend in occupational mobility during the period of 1968-1997. I find that shifts in occupational composition can partially explain the rising occupational mobility trend for less educated young workers and more educated workers. An approximate 10-20% reduction in the estimated mobility trend when occupation is controlled for implies that occupational composition generally shifted to less stable occupations. In addition, when negative occupational employment shocks are controlled for, workers in most age-education subgroups exhibit higher increases in occupational mobility.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Woodcock, Simon
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