February 2019

IZA DP No. 12173: Human Capital Investment under Exit Options: Evidence from a Natural Quasi-Experiment

forthcoming in: Journal of Development Economics 2023

Theory suggests that groups historically subject to discrimination, such as Jews, could exhibit traditionally high investment in education because discrimination spurred exit facilitated by human capital. Theory moreover suggests that if exit is uncertain, it could induce investment in skill that more-than-offsets the mechanical reduction in skill stocks at the origin. Tests of such theories are difficult and few. We examine a unique natural quasiexperiment in the Republic of Fiji, in which a sharp increase in discrimination induced mass exit by one ethnic group and mass skill investment by the same group. We show that the induced investment more than offset the loss from exit, producing a net increase in skill stocks. We argue with theory and a range of nonexperimental falsification tests that exit by skilled workers was a necessary causal mechanism of the offsetting skill investment.