Monday, March 22, 2010

Human Capital Development Before Age Five

New NBER working paper by Douglas Almond & Janet Currie


This chapter seeks to set out what Economists have learned about the effects of early childhood influences on later life outcomes, and about ameliorating the effects of negative influences. We begin with a brief overview of the theory which illustrates that evidence of a causal relationship between a shock in early childhood and a future outcome says little about whether the relationship in question biological or immutable. We then survey recent work which shows that events before five years old can have large long term impacts on adult outcomes. Child and family characteristics measured at school entry do as much to explain future outcomes as factors that labor economists have more traditionally focused on, such as years of education. Yet while children can be permanently damaged at this age, an important message is that the damage can often be remediated. We provide a brief overview of evidence regarding the effectiveness of different types of policies to provide remediation. We conclude with a list of some of (the many) outstanding questions for future research.

Nber Working Paper No. 15827


Nicola O'Connell said...

Just on the title you chose, found this interesting albeit biased etymology of the term 'human capital'. Unfortunately only half is available online:

Mark McG said...

Thanks Nicola, I'm disappointed I can't read the whole thing! I think economists do often get a hard time about some of the language and approaches used, but for better or worse this kind of `economic’ terminology is highly influential in the media and amongst policy makers. For example, one sentence in the article reads:

“Mincer and Becker’s work has provided the intellectual rationale for the huge expansion of higher education in recent decades.”

That can hardly be a bad thing.

Kevin Denny said...

"Human capital" I can live with but its the others that have tried to jump on the bandwagon I find hard to take: "social capital" is much harder to define. There is also something called "love capital".