Current Research

International emigrant selection on occupational skills

(Jointly with Jens Ruhose, Simon Wiederhold, and Miguel Flores)

We present the first evidence on the role of occupational choices and acquired skills for migrant selection. Combining novel data from a representative Mexican task survey with rich individual-level worker data, we find that Mexican migrants to the United States have higher manual skills and lower cognitive skills than non-migrants. Results hold within narrowly defined region-industry-occupation cells and for all education levels. Consistent with a Roy/Borjas-type selection model, differential returns to occupational skills between the United States and Mexico explain the selection pattern. Occupational skills are more important to capture the economic motives for migration than previously used worker characteristics. (JEL F22, O15, J61, J24) [DOI]

Learning by Problem-Solving

(Jointly with Peer Ederer and Ljubica Nedelkoska)

The standard Mincer model does not account for large differences in earnings across occupations. We present an alternative learning-by-doing model that relates wages and skill development to the level of job complexity of a worker. Using administrative data on German labour market entrants, we find that wage growth is positively related to job complexity and negatively related to the initial level of skill. We calibrate the model and show that workers in highly complex occupations acquire twice as much human capital throughout life compared to workers in simple occupations. The results suggest that learning-by-doing is a far more important earnings determinant than investment in education and training that have been the focus of the literature. (JEL J24, J31, D83) [SSRN]