Technological Change and the Age-Earnings Profile: Evidence from the International Merchant Marine, 1861-1912
Models of vintage-specific learning predict systematic cross-technology differences in earnings among otherwise identical employees. This paper outlines a vintage learning model based on Chari and Hopenhayn's (1991, Journal of Political Economy) exposition. The model predicts that (i) the age-earnings profile is steeper in new technologies, (ii) the discounted present value of lifetime earnings are equalized across technologies, and (iii) the age-earnings profile in newer technologies becomes flatter over time. These predictions find support from a data set spanning a 52 year period beginning in 1861 that matches over 141,000 wage contracts accepted by merchant mariners to the technologies with which they worked. As a by-product, the paper reports some of the oldest evidence yet made available of the returns to literacy. (Copyright: Elsevier)
technology diffusion, vintage human capital, age-earnings profile, literacy
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