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Human capital is a key resource for which firms compete intensely. Human capital theory suggests that firms value both transferable and specific human capital. Yet as transferability increases, specificity decreases. This article examines the value firms place on acquiring executives’ human capital as a function of its transferability versus specificity. Using longitudinal data from more than 9,000 executives, this article shows that executives moving to more similar firms receive greater increases to pay than nonmovers and those moving to less similar firms. This article suggests these increases reflect the differential value associated with various types of human capital.


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© SAGE. Final version published as: Sturman, M. C., Walsh, K., & Cheramie, R. A. (2008). The value of human capital specificity versus transferability. Journal of Management, 34(2), 290-316. doi: 10.1177/0149206307312509. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.