NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Multidimensional Skill Mismatch

Fatih Guvenen, Burhanettin Kuruscu, Satoshi Tanaka, David Wiczer

NBER Working Paper No. 21376
Issued in July 2015, Revised in September 2015
NBER Program(s):ED, EFG, LS

What determines the earnings of a worker relative to his peers in the same occupation? What makes a worker fail in one occupation but succeed in another? More broadly, what are the factors that determine the productivity of a worker-occupation match? In this paper, we propose an empirical measure of skill mismatch for a worker-occupation match, which sheds light on these questions. This measure is based on the discrepancy between the portfolio of skills required by an occupation (for performing the tasks that produce output) and the portfolio of abilities possessed by a worker for learning those skills. This measure arises naturally in a dynamic model of occupational choice with multidimensional skills and Bayesian learning about one's ability to learn these skills. In this model, mismatch is central to the career outcomes of workers: it reduces the returns to occupational tenure, and it predicts occupational switching behavior. We construct our empirical analog by combining data from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), O*NET, and National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). Our empirical results show that the effects of mismatch on wages are large and persistent: mismatch in occupations held early in life has a strong effect on wages in future occupations. Skill mismatch also significantly increases the probability of an occupational switch and predicts its direction in the skill space. These results provide fresh evidence on the importance of skill mismatch for the job search process.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21376

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