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Higher education and human capital

Human capital is the stock of skills, knowledge, and social and personality attributes that influence people’s ability to produce economic value from their labor. Undertaking higher education is one method of accumulating human capital. It can result in overeducation and skills mismatch for some, while others may not find the economic returns from attending higher education to be financially beneficial. However, carefully designed and targeted careers information and advice can improve students’ knowledge about the costs and benefits of educational investments. Further, expanding the skill base of the labor force may lead to lower levels of wealth inequality for all.

  • How to attract international students? Updated

    Studying abroad benefits the students, the host country, and those remaining at home

    Arnaud Chevalier, May 2022
    In knowledge-based economies, attracting and retaining international students can help expand the skilled workforce. Empirical evidence suggests that open migration policies and labor markets, whereby students can remain in the host country post-study, as well as good quality higher education institutions are crucial for successfully attracting international students. Student migration can positively affect economic growth in both sending and receiving countries, even though migrants themselves reap most of the gains, mainly through higher earnings.
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  • Do rising returns to education justify “helicopter” parenting?

    Increased stakes in educational achievement explain why today’s anxious parents engage in intensive parenting styles

    Parents now engage in much more intensive parenting styles compared to a few decades ago. Today’s parents supervise their children more closely, spend more time interacting with them, help much more with homework, and place more emphasis on educational achievement. More intensive parenting has also led to more unequal parenting: highly educated parents with high incomes have increased their parenting investments the most, leading to a growing “parenting gap” in society. These trends can contribute to declining social mobility and further exacerbate rising inequality, which raises the question of how policymakers should respond.
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  • What is the nature and extent of student–university mismatch?

    Students do worse if their abilities fail to match the requirements of the institutions where they matriculate

    A growing body of research has begun to examine the match between student ability and university quality. Initial research focused on overmatch—where students are lower attaining than their college peers. However, more recently, attention has turned to undermatch, where students attend institutions with lower attaining peers. Both have been shown to matter for student outcomes; while in theory overmatch could be desirable, there is evidence that overmatched students are less likely to graduate college. Undermatched students, meanwhile, have been shown to experience lower graduate earnings.
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  • Overeducation, skill mismatches, and labor market outcomes for college graduates Updated

    Concerns exist that overeducation damages employee welfare; however it is overeducation combined with overskilling that is the real problem

    Evidence shows that many college graduates are employed in jobs for which a degree is not required (overeducation), and in which the skills they learned in college are not being fully utilized (overskilling). Policymakers should be particularly concerned about widespread overskilling, which is likely to be harmful to both the welfare of employees and the interests of employers as both overeducation and overskilling can lead to frustration, lower wages, and higher quitting rates while also being a waste of government money spent on education.
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  • Understanding teacher effectiveness to raise pupil attainment

    Teacher effectiveness has a dramatic effect on student outcomes—how can it be increased?

    Simon Burgess, December 2019
    Teacher effectiveness is the most important component of the education process within schools for pupil attainment. One estimate suggests that, in the US, replacing the least effective 8% of teachers with average teachers has a present value of $100 trillion. Researchers have a reasonable understanding of how to measure teacher effectiveness; but the next step, understanding the best ways to raise it, is where the research frontier now lies. Two areas in particular appear to hold the greatest promise: reforming hiring practices and contracts, and reforming teacher training and development.
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  • University study abroad and graduates’ employability Updated

    There is a positive association between study abroad and graduates’ job prospects, though it is unclear if the link is causal

    Giorgio Di Pietro, May 2019
    In recent decades, the number of university students worldwide who have received some part of their education abroad has been rising rapidly. Despite the popularity of international student exchange programs, however, debate continues over what students actually gain from this experience. A major advantage claimed for study abroad programs is that they can enhance employability by providing graduates with the skills and experience employers look for. These programs are also expected to increase the probability that graduates will work abroad, and so may especially benefit students willing to pursue an international career. However, most of the evidence is qualitative and based on small samples.
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