Human Capital and Career Success: Evidence from Linked Employer-Employee Data


  • Martin Juhl provided valuable research assistance. We benefited from helpful comments by Jed DeVaro, Peter Kuhn, Fabian Lange, Edward Lazear, Hodaka Morita, Hideo Owan, Paul Oyer, Kathryn Shaw and Mike Waldman (listed alphabetically) as well as two anonymous referees and the Editor (Frederic Vermeulen), and seminar participants at IZA-Bonn, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, ICOA (Aarhus University), the 2012 SOLE Meeting, the 2012 NBER Summer Institute, Hitotsubashi University and University of Montreal.


Using Danish registry data covering the population of Danish workers, we provide new and robust evidence with external validity on the importance of the breadth of human capital for top management appointments, and support/enrich the human capital theory of corporate leadership by Gibbons and Waldman and Lazear. Our analysis allows for both internal promotion and external recruitment as means to achieve top management appointments, and yields additional findings: the breath of human capital is more important in mature firms, as predicted by the theory; and the concept of firm-specific human capital applies to the breadth of human capital.