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Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies?


  • Benjamin M. Friedman
    (Harvard University)


  • James J. Heckman

    (University of Chicago)

  • Alan B. Krueger

    (Princeton University)


The surge of inequality in income and wealth in the United States over the past twenty-five years has reversed the steady progress toward greater equality that had been underway throughout most of the twentieth century. This economic development has defied historical patterns and surprised many economists, producing vigorous debate. Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? examines the ways in which human capital policies can address this important problem. Taking it as a given that potentially low-income workers would benefit from more human capital in the form of market skills and education, James Heckman and Alan Krueger discuss which policies would be most effective in providing it: should we devote more resources to the entire public school system, or to specialized programs like Head Start? Would relaxing credit restraints encourage more students to attend college? Does vocational training actually work? What is the best balance of private and public sector programs? The book preserves the character of the symposium at which the papers were originally presented, recreating its atmosphere of lively debate. It begins with separate arguments by Krueger and Heckman (writing with Pedro Carneiro), which are followed by comments from other economists. Krueger and Heckman and Carneiro then offer separate responses to the comments and final rejoinders.

Suggested Citation

  • James J. Heckman & Alan B. Krueger, 2005. "Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies?," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582600 edited by Benjamin M. Friedman, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262582600

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dominik Sachs & Sebastian Findeisen, 2016. "Optimal Financial Aid Policies for Students," 2016 Meeting Papers 1421, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2015. "Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street," NBER Working Papers 21229, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Samuel Berlinski & Maria Marta Ferreyra & Luca Flabbi & Juan David Martin, 2020. "Child Care Markets, Parental Labor Supply, and Child Development," CHILD Working Papers Series 73 JEL Classification:, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    4. Sebastian Findeisen & Dominik Sachs, 2018. "Education Policies and Taxation without Commitment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 120(4), pages 1075-1099, October.
    5. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2015. "Designing efficient college and tax policies," Working Papers 15-09, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
    6. Arthur Sakamoto & Jason Rarick & Hyeyoung Woo & Sharron Wang, 2014. "What underlies the Great Gatsby Curve? Psychological micro-foundations of the “vicious circle” of poverty," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 13(2), pages 195-211, November.
    7. Parasnis, Jaai & Paterson, Molly & Rendall, Michelle, 2022. "Gender, Income, and Numeracy Test Scores," CEPR Discussion Papers 16895, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Urvi Neelakantan & Ivan Vidangos & Felicia Ionescu & Kartik Athreya, 2016. "Investment Opportunities and the Sources of Lifetime Inequality," 2016 Meeting Papers 1177, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Emmanuel Saez & Nicholas Turner & Danny Yagan, 2020. "The Determinants of Income Segregation and Intergenerational Mobility: Using Test Scores to Measure Undermatching," NBER Working Papers 26748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Haney, Timothy, 2012. "Off to Market: Neighborhood and Individual Employment Barriers for Women in 21st Century American Cities," SocArXiv 57e4a, Center for Open Science.
    11. Wilfried Altzinger & Jesús Crespo Cuaresma & Alyssa Schneebaum & Bernhard Rumplmaier & Petra Sauer, 2015. "Education and Social Mobility in Europe: Levelling the Playing Field for Europe's Children and Fuelling its Economy. WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 80," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 57887, May.
    12. Wennberg, Karl & Stadin, Evelina & Bergström, Andreas, 2014. "How policy could handle workplace digitization," Ratio Working Papers 237, The Ratio Institute.
    13. El-Osta, Hisham S., 2011. "The Impact of Human Capital on Farm Operator Household Income," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 40(1), pages 1-21, April.
    14. Plamen Nikolov & Steve Yeh, 2021. "Reaping the Rewards Later: How Education Improves Old-Age Cognition in South Africa," Papers 2109.02177,, revised Oct 2021.
    15. Sergio Urzua, 2019. "Redistribution Through Education: The Value of Public Education Spending," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 88, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    16. Zheng, Xiaodong & Wang, Chengcheng & Shen, Zheng & Fang, Xiangming, 2020. "Associations of private tutoring with Chinese students’ academic achievement, emotional well-being, and parent-child relationship," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 112(C).
    17. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Adriana D. Kugler & Mikko I. Silliman, 2020. "Hard and Soft Skills in Vocational Training: Experimental Evidence from Colombia," NBER Working Papers 27548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2016. "Education and optimal dynamic taxation: The role of income-contingent student loans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-21.
    19. Dylan Conger & Mark C. Long, 2010. "Why Are Men Falling Behind? Gender Gaps in College Performance and Persistence," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 627(1), pages 184-214, January.
    20. Joern H. Block & Mirko Hirschmann & Tobias Kranz & Matthias Neuenkirch, 2022. "Public Family Firms and Economic Inequality Across Societies," Research Papers in Economics 2022-04, University of Trier, Department of Economics.
    21. Daniela Del Boca & Silvia Pasqua & Simona Suardi, 2016. "Child Care, Maternal Employment, and Children’s School Outcomes. An Analysis of Italian Data," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(2), pages 211-229, May.
    22. Plamen Nikolov & Steve Yeh, 2021. "Reaping the Rewards Later: How Education Improves Old-Age Cognition in South Africa," Working Papers 2021-045, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

    More about this item


    inequality; human capital policies;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy


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