Education and human capital

Education shows great resilience to shocks—labor demand for highly skilled workers has remained high in all kinds of economic conditions. Public policy for education and human capital includes increasing the economic and social returns on education, fostering greater educational attainment, encouraging social and economic mobility, and providing vocational education, training, and lifelong learning.

  • 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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  • Early-life medical care and human capital accumulation Updated

    Medical care and public health interventions in early childhood may improve human capital accumulation as well as child health

    Ample empirical evidence links adverse conditions during early childhood (the period from conception to age five) to worse health outcomes and lower academic achievement in adulthood. Can early-life medical care and public health interventions ameliorate these effects? Recent research suggests that both types of interventions may benefit not only child health but also long-term educational outcomes. In some cases, the effects of interventions may spillover to other family members. These findings can be used to design policies that improve long-term outcomes and reduce economic inequality.
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  • Is training effective for older workers? Updated

    Training programs that meet the learning needs of older workers can improve their employability

    Matteo Picchio, July 2021
    The labor market position of older workers is cause for concern in many industrialized countries. Rapid population aging is challenging pension systems. The recent economic crisis has forced many older adults out of the workforce, into either pre-retirement or non-employment. Encouraging people to work longer and fostering the employability of older workers have become priorities for policymakers. Training specifically designed for older workers might help attain these goals, since it may refresh human capital and reduce the pay–productivity gap. Training older workers might also benefit employers and society as a whole.
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  • Income inequality and social origins Updated

    Promoting intergenerational mobility makes societies more egalitarian

    Lorenzo Cappellari, May 2021
    Income inequality has been on the rise in many countries. Is this bad? One way to decide is to look at the degree of change in incomes across generations (intergenerational mobility) and, more generally, at the extent to which income differences among individuals are traceable to their social origins. Inequalities that reflect factors largely out of an individual’s control—such as parents’ education, local schools, and communities—require attention in order to reduce income inequality. Evidence shows a negative association between income inequality and intergenerational mobility, and a positive relationship between mobility and economic performance.
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  • Immigrants in the classroom and effects on native children Updated

    Having immigrant children in the classroom may sometimes, but not always, harm educational outcomes of native children

    Peter Jensen, April 2021
    Many countries are experiencing increasing inflows of immigrant students. This raises concerns that having a large share of students for whom the host country language is not their first language may have detrimental effects on the educational outcomes of native children. However, the evidence is mixed, with some studies finding negative effects, and others finding no effects. Whether higher concentrations of immigrant students have an effect on native students differs across countries according to factors such as organization of the school system and the type of immigrants.
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  • The value of language skills Updated

    A common language facilitates communication and economic efficiency, but linguistic diversity has economic and cultural value too

    In today's globalized world, people are increasingly mobile and often need to communicate across different languages. Learning a new language is an investment in human capital. Migrants must learn the language of their destination country, but even non-migrants must often learn other languages if their work involves communicating with foreigners. Economic studies have shown that fluency in a dominant language is important to economic success and increases economic efficiency. However, maintaining linguistic diversity also has value since language is also an expression of people's culture.
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  • What is the economic value of literacy and numeracy? Updated

    Basic skills in literacy and numeracy are essential for success in the labor market

    Even in OECD countries, where an increasing proportion of the workforce has a university degree, the value of basic skills in literacy and numeracy remains high. Indeed, in some countries the return for such skills, in the form of higher wages, is sufficiently large to suggest that they are in high demand and that there is a relative scarcity. Policymakers need robust evidence in order to devise interventions that genuinely improve basic skills, not just of new school leavers entering the market, but also of the existing workforce. This would lead to significant improvements in the population that achieves a minimum level of literacy and numeracy.
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  • Who benefits from firm-sponsored training? Updated

    Firm-sponsored training benefits both workers and firms through higher wages, increased productivity and innovation

    Benoit Dostie, July 2020
    Workers participating in firm-sponsored training receive higher wages as a result. But given that firms pay the majority of costs for training, shouldn’t they also benefit? Empirical evidence shows that this is in fact the case. Firm-sponsored training leads to higher productivity levels and increased innovation, both of which benefit the firm. Training can also be complementary to, and enhance, other types of firm investment, particularly in physical capital, such as information and communication technology (ICT), and in organizational capital, such as the implementation of high-performance workplace practices.
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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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  • Migration and human capital accumulation in China

    Migration may generate detrimental long-term impacts by widening the urban–rural educational gap

    The difference in educational attainment between China's urban- and rural-born populations has widened in recent years, and the relatively low educational attainment of the rural-born is a significant obstacle to raising labor productivity. Rural-to-urban migration does not create incentives to enroll in higher education as the availability of low-skill employment in urban areas makes remaining in school less attractive. In addition, the child-fostering and urban schooling arrangements for children of migrants further inhibit human capital accumulation.
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