Life-Cycle Human Capital Accumulation Across Countries: Lessons from U.S. Immigrants

49 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018 Last revised: 7 Feb 2020

See all articles by David Lagakos

David Lagakos

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Benjamin Moll

Princeton University - Department of Economics

Tommaso Porzio

Yale University

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics

Todd Schoellman

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 1, 2015

Abstract

How much does life-cycle human capital accumulation vary across countries? This paper seeks to answer this question by studying U.S. immigrants, who come from a wide variety of countries but work in a common labor market. We document that returns to potential experience among U.S. immigrants are higher on average for workers coming from rich countries than for those coming from poor countries. To understand this fact we build a model of life-cycle human capital accumulation that features three potential theories, working respectively through cross-country differences in selection, skill loss, and human capital accumulation. To distinguish between theories, we use new data on the characteristics of immigrants and non-migrants from a large set of countries. We conclude that the most likely theory is that immigrants from poor countries accumulate relatively less human capital in their birth countries before migrating. Our findings imply that life-cycle human capital stocks are on average much larger in rich countries than poor countries.

Keywords: capital, human capital, immigrants, immigration, labor, labor market, capital accumulation

Suggested Citation

Lagakos, David and Moll, Benjamin and Porzio, Tommaso and Qian, Nancy and Schoellman, Todd, Life-Cycle Human Capital Accumulation Across Countries: Lessons from U.S. Immigrants (December 1, 2015). Global Poverty Research Lab Working Paper No. 17-113, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3127033 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3127033

David Lagakos

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Benjamin Moll

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Tommaso Porzio

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Nancy Qian (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Todd Schoellman

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ( email )

90 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55480
United States

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