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Policies to Create and Destroy Human Capital in Europe

  • Heckman, James J.


    (University of Chicago)

  • Jacobs, Bas


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Trends in skill bias and greater turbulence in modern labor markets put wages and employment prospects of unskilled workers under pressure. Weak incentives to utilize and maintain skills over the life-cycle become manifest with the ageing of the population. Reinvention of human capital policies is required to avoid increasing welfare state dependency among the unskilled and to reduce inefficiencies in human capital formation. Policy makers should acknowledge strong dynamic complementarities in skill formation. Investments in the human capital of children should expand relative to investment in older workers. There is no trade-off between equity and efficiency at early ages of human development but there is a substantial trade-off at later ages. Later remediation of skill deficits acquired in early years is often ineffective. Active labor market and training policies should therefore be reformulated. Skill formation is impaired when the returns to skill formation are low due to low skill use and insufficient skill maintenance later on in life. High marginal tax rates and generous benefit systems reduce labor force participation rates and hours worked and thereby lower the utilization rate of human capital. Tax-benefit systems should be reconsidered as they increasingly redistribute resources from outsiders to insiders in labor markets which is both distortionary and inequitable. Early retirement and pension schemes should be made actuarially fairer as they entail strong incentives to retire early and human capital is thus written off too quickly.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4680.

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Length: 112 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Hans-Werner Sinn and Edmund Phelps (eds.), Perspectives on the Performance of the Continental Economies, MIT Press, 2011, 253-322
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4680
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  2. Edward C. Prescott, 2004. "Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000413, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Introduction to "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin American and the Caribbean"," NBER Chapters, in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 1-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. ?gel de la Fuente & Rafael Dom?ech, . "Human Capital In Growth Regressions: How Much Difference Does Data Quality Make?," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 446.00, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  5. Hilmer, Michael J., 1998. "Post-secondary fees and the decision to attend a university or a community college," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 329-348, March.
  6. Hansen, Karsten T & Heckman, James J & Mullen, Kathleen J, 2003. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Working Paper Series 2003:13, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  7. James J. Heckman & Paul LaFontaine, 2006. "Bias Corrected Estimates of GED Returns," NBER Working Papers 12018, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Anders Björklund & Mikael Lindahl & Erik Plug, 2006. "The Origins of Intergenerational Associations: Lessons from Swedish Adoption Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 999-1028.
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  15. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 1999. "Introduction to "Social Security and Retirement around the World"," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security and Retirement around the World, pages 1-35 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Kane, Thomas J, 1994. "College Entry by Blacks since 1970: The Role of College Costs, Family Background, and the Returns to Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 878-911, October.
  18. Heckman, James J, 1976. "A Life-Cycle Model of Earnings, Learning, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S11-44, August.
  19. Christopher R. Taber, 2001. "The Rising College Premium in the Eighties: Return to College or Return to Unobserved Ability?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(3), pages 665-691.
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