Industry-specific human capital and wages : Evidence from the business process outsourcing industry

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-638
Journal / PublicationInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
Online published25 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


Human capital is becoming more critical as the global economy becomes more information intensive and service intensive. Although information systems (IS) researchers have studied some dimensions of human capital, the role of industry-specific human capital has remained understudied. The information technology enabled business process outsourcing (BPO) industry provides an ideal setting to study returns to human capital, because jobs in this industry are standardized and many professionals in this new industry have come from other industries. We build on IS and economics literature to theorize returns to human capital in the BPO industry, and we test the theory using data for over 2,500 BPO professionals engaged in call center work and other nonvoice services (e.g., accounting, finance, human resources, etc.) in India during the 2006-2008 time period. We find higher returns to industry-specific human capital than to firm-specific and general human capital. We also find that junior-level professionals, whose jobs are relatively more standardized, have higher returns to industry-specific human capital than senior-level professionals. We discuss implications for further research and practice in the global economy where inter-industry transfers and migration of skills are becoming increasingly common.

Research Area(s)

  • BPO, Compensation, Global disaggregation, Globalization, Human capital, Industry, Industry-specific human capital, Outsourcing, Professionals, Services, Wages