Human capital is becoming more critical as the global economy becomes more information intensive and service intensive. While IS researchers have studied some dimensions of human capital, the role of industry-specific human capital has remained understudied. The IT-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 non-voice services (e.g., accounting, finance, HR, 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.

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Copyright © 2014 INFORMS. Article first published online: September 2014.

DOI: 10.1287/isre.2014.0532

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Full citation:

Kim, Keongtae, Sunil Mithas, Jonathan Whitaker, and Prasanto K. Roy. "Industry-Specific Human Capital and Wages: Evidence from the Business Process Outsourcing Industry." Information Systems Research 25, no. 3 (September 2014): 618-638.