Abstract: We investigate learning at the workplace. To do so, we use German administrative data that contain information on the entire workforce of a sample of establishments. We document that having more highly paid coworkers is strongly associated with future wage growth, particularly if those workers earn more. Motivated by this fact, we propose a dynamic theory of a competitive labor market where firms produce using teams of heterogeneous workers that learn from each other. We develop a methodology to structurally estimate knowledge flows using the full-richness of the German employer-employee matched data. The methodology builds on the observation that a competitive labor market prices coworker learning. Our quantitative approach imposes minimal restrictions on firms' production functions, can be implemented on a very short panel, and allows for potentially rich and flexible coworker learning functions. In line with our reduced form results, learning from coworkers is significant, particularly from more knowledgeable coworkers. We show that between 4 and 9% of total worker compensation is in the form of learning and that inequality in total compensation is significantly lower than inequality in wages.
Abstract: We develop a theory of career paths and earnings where agents organize in production hierarchies. Agents climb these hierarchies as they learn stochastically from others. Earnings grow as agents acquire knowledge and occupy positions with more subordinates. We contrast these and other implications with US census data for the period 1990 to 2010, matching the Lorenz curve of earnings and the observed mean experience-earnings profiles. We show the increase in wage inequality over this period can be rationalized with a shift in the level of the complexity and profitability of technologies relative to the distribution of knowledge in the population.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2006, 121(4): 1383-1435
Abstract: We present an equilibrium theory of the organization of work in an economy where knowledge is an essential input in production and agents are heterogeneous in skill. Agents organize production by matching with others in knowledge hierarchies designed to use and communicate their knowledge efficiently. Relative to autarky, organization leads to larger cross-sectional differences in knowledge and wages: low skill workers learn and earn relatively less. We show that improvements in the technology to acquire knowledge lead to opposite implications on wage inequality and organization than reductions in communication costs.