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Human Capital, Tangible Wealth, and the Intangible Capital Residual


  • Kirk Hamilton

    (The World Bank)

  • Gang Liu



Since income is the return on wealth, the total wealth of any given country should be on the order of 20 times its GDP. Instead the average observed ratio from the balance sheet accounts of the System of National Accounts (SNA) is a factor of 2.6 to 6.6, depending on whether natural resource stocks are included in the balance sheet. The clear implication is that the SNA wealth accounts are incomplete, with the most obvious omission being human capital. Estimating the value of human capital using the lifetime income approach for a sample of thirteen (mostly high-income) countries yields a mean share of human capital in total wealth of 62% – four times the value of produced capital and 15 times the value of natural capital. But for selected high income countries in the sample there is still an average of 25% of total wealth which is unaccounted – it is neither produced, nor natural, nor human capital. This residual intangible wealth is arguably the ’stock equivalent’ of total factor productivity – the value of assets such as institutional quality and social capital which augment the capacity of produced, natural and human capital to support a stream of consumption into the future. Le revenu étant défini comme le rendement de la richesse, la richesse totale d’un pays donné devrait être environ 20 fois supérieure à son PIB. En fait, le rapport moyen qui ressort des comptes de patrimoine du Système de comptabilité nationale (SCN) n’est que de 2.6 à 6.6, selon que les stocks de ressources naturelles sont pris en compte ou non. Les comptes de patrimoine du SCN sont donc manifestement incomplets, et l’omission la plus évidente est celle du capital humain. Si l’on estime la valeur du capital humain en s’appuyant sur les revenus des personnes d’âge actif sur l’ensemble de leur cycle de vie dans un échantillon de 13 pays (à revenu élevé pour la plupart), on obtient un pourcentage du capital humain dans la richesse totale de 62 % en moyenne – soit quatre fois la valeur du capital produit et 15 fois celle du capital naturel. Pour certains pays à revenu élevé, 25 % de la richesse totale reste non définie – elle ne relève ni du capital produit, ni du capital naturel ni du capital humain. On peut donc considérer cette richesse incorporelle résiduelle comme l’équivalant en stock de la productivité totale des facteurs – en d’autres termes, comme la valeur d’actifs telle que la qualité des institutions et le capital social, qui augmentent la capacité du capital produit, naturel et humain pour alimenter la consommation dans l’avenir.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirk Hamilton & Gang Liu, 2013. "Human Capital, Tangible Wealth, and the Intangible Capital Residual," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2013/2, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:stdaaa:2013/2-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Meir Russ & Bino Catasùs, 2014. "Editorial. Intellectual Capital and Management Control: Human Capital Valuation and other challenges," MANAGEMENT CONTROL, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(2), pages 5-21.
    2. Fleisher, Belton M. & McGuire, William H. & Smith, Adam Nicholas & Zhou, Mi, 2015. "Knowledge capital, innovation, and growth in China," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 31-42.

    More about this item


    Comprehensive Wealth; human capital; Intangible Capital;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity


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