Education in Italy: is there any return?
The “return to education” issue has been widely investigated in the economic literature. However, how the social value of education can affect its economic return and individual decisions on “human capital” investments has been somewhat neglected. The paper criticises the traditional definition of human capital and the premises of Becker’s equation and considers the following questions: does education have a consistent return in Italy? If not, does education have any social value?. From an economic point of view and at a conceptual level, numerous difficulties arise when one seeks to define “human capital”. One may make a list of factors endogenous to an individual, such as education, training and ability, and of factors exogenous to him/her such as level of family education, social capital, system of relations, freedom of knowledge transmission, institutions. All of these factors may affect “human capital”. Moreover, the decision to invest in “human capital” may not be completely rational. Rationality would probably instead suggest on-the-job training and training. Education has a cultural, social and historical value; as a consequence, individuals may make decisions about the proper investment in education not only by considering marginal costs and future benefits of that investment, but for other reasons as well.
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