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The Technology of Skill Formation

  • James Heckman
  • Pedro Carneiro
  • Flavio Cunha

his paper presents formal models of child development that capture the essence of recent findings from the empirical literature on child development. The goal is to provide theoretical frameworks for interpreting the evidence from a vast empirical literature, for guiding the next generation of empirical studies and for formulating policy. We start from the premise that skill formation is a life-cycle process. It starts in the womb and goes on throughout most of the adult life. Families and firms have a role in this process that is at least as important as the role of schools. There are multiple skills and multiple abilities that are important for adult success. Abilities are both inherited and created, and the traditional debate of nature versus nurture is outdated and scientifically obsolete. The technology of skill formation has two additional important characteristics. The first one is that IQ and behavior are more plastic at early ages than at later ages. Furthermore, behavior is much more malleable than IQ as individuals age. The second is that human capital investments are complementary over time. Early investments increase the productivity of later investments. Early investments are not productive if they are not followed up by later investments. The returns to investing early in the life cycle are high. Remediation of inadequate early investments is difficult and very costly

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2004 Meeting Papers with number 681.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:681
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
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Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
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  1. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance John & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 1675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Bhargava, Alok, 2008. "Food, Economics, and Health," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199269143, March.
  3. Benabou, R., 1999. "Tax and Education Policy in a Heterogeneous Agent Economy: What Levels of Redistribution Maximize Growth and Efficiency?," Working Papers 99-12, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  4. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post-Secondary Schooling," IZA Discussion Papers 518, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J. & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors," IZA Discussion Papers 1453, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1993. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," NBER Working Papers 4406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J., 2010. "Investing in Our Young People," IZA Discussion Papers 5050, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
  9. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Schennach, Susanne, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 4702, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Eric I. Knudsen & James J. Heckman & Judy L. Cameron & Jack P. Shonkoff, 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America's Future Workforce," NBER Working Papers 12298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Eliana Garces & Duncan Thomas & Janet Currie, 2000. "Longer Term Effects of Head Start," Working Papers 00-20, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  12. Richard C. Edwards, 1976. "Individual Traits and Organizational Incentives: What Makes a "Good" Worker?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 11(1), pages 51-68.
  13. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, Kathleen, 2003. "The Effect of Schooling and Ability on Achievement Test Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 826, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1986. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S1-39, July.
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  16. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
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  18. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1.
  19. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  20. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
  21. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. John M. Barron & Mark C. Berger & Dan A. Black, 2006. "Selective Counteroffers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 385-410, July.
  23. Gordon B. Dahl & Lance Lochner, 2005. "The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement," NBER Working Papers 11279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  25. Costas Megir & Martin Palme, 2001. "The effect of a social experiment in education," CEE Discussion Papers 0014, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  26. Bruce A. Weinberg, 2001. "An Incentive Model of the Effect of Parental Income on Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 266-280, April.
  27. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "School Quality and the Longer-Term Effects of Head Start," NBER Working Papers 6362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  29. Anne Case & Angela Fertig & Christina Paxson, 2004. "The Lasting Impact of Childhood Health and Circumstance," Working Papers 246, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  30. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
  31. Stephen V. Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2004. "Estimation of Educational Borrowing Constraints Using Returns to Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 132-182, February.
  32. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Elizabeth Caucutt & Lance Lochner, 2004. "Early and Late Human Capital Investments, Credit Constraints, and the Family," 2004 Meeting Papers 129, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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