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Human capital

Human capital is a key determinant of economic success, inequalities and intergenerational mobility. Studying how it is shaped by experiences, environment and investments and how it responds to different policies and interventions is critical to understanding the evolution of inequalities and how to tackle them.

Our research focuses on middle and low income countries and aims to tackle the many open questions that need to be answered in order to design effective policies in contexts where the need is greatest. We study how different dimensions of human capital are formed in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, how disadvantage affects human capital formation and, critically, how interventions can be designed to mitigate these effects.

We work in collaboration with experts from several disciplines including psychology, public health and education, drawing on administrative, survey and cohort data, as well as new primary data collected using randomised controlled trials and longitudinal studies. Examples of topics covered within our current set of projects include studying the drivers and role of different parental investments for development of children in the first three years of life (India), how pre-schools shape children’s outcomes in the subsequent pre-school years (Colombia and Ghana), what distinguishes more and less effective teachers in primary schools (Vietnam), how to improve outcomes of adolescent girls (rural India) and how to design effective labour market programmes for disadvantaged youth (Colombia).

Underpinning our work are models of human capital formation tailored to the different stages of human development. A key cross-cutting theme is development of new methods to overcome the great challenges of measuring different aspects of human capital and relevant contextual and behavioural factors.

Selected highlights

Journal article | British Medical Journal
The objective of this paper is to assess the effectiveness of an integrated early child development intervention, combining stimulation and micronutrient supplementation and delivered on a large scale in Colombia, for children’s development, growth, and hemoglobin levels.
Video clip
Following the 2015 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) flagship publication of 2015, "The Early Years: Child Well-Being and the Role of Public Policy", the Centre for the Evaluation of Development Policy (EDePo) at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the IDB organised an academic ...
Newspaper article
early_childhood_development_policies_the_evidence_and_the_research_agenda
The importance of investment in children’s pre-school years for their later life outcomes is increasingly recognised by policymakers. This column surveys the evidence on early childhood development policies in both developed and developing countries. Research suggests that effective education ...
Journal article | Economic Journal
This paper estimates the impact of a long-established pre-school nursery programme on children's nutritional status.
Journal article | Review of Economic Dynamics
In this paper we use high quality data from two developing countries, Ethiopia and Peru, to estimate the production functions of human capital from age 1 to age 15.

Contacts

Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or mailbox@ifs.org.uk

Britta Augsburg
Associate Director
Sarah Cattan
Associate Director
Sonya Krutikova
Deputy Research Director
Yani Tyskerud
Assistant Director