HuCIAW: Human capital and inequality during adolescence and working life

About the project

This project investigates the role of human capital in shaping inequalities over the life course. The project aims to shed new light on the process of human capital formation during adolescence and adulthood. The team takes a multi-dimensional view of inequality, over education opportunities and outcomes, employment and earnings, and study how they relate to individual circumstances, gender and family arrangements, how they develop over the life course and how they are influenced by the institutional background.

First results

The research has developed in various directions. For instance, the team is studying the sorting of students to High Education, the role of social economic status in driving that sorting and their joint consequences for future wage inequalities. For the UK, the team finds that socio-economic status affects the economic outcomes of graduates: otherwise similar students graduating from the same institution and field of study experience average earnings paths that dependent of their family background. The findings received widespread coverage and were particularly influential in shaping the public discussion on High Education policy led by the UK Department for Education and The Social Mobility Commission.

One area of the research is gender inequality and how it develops over the course of life. The team found that women continue to make important investments in skills throughout their working life, well into the 40s and 50s and more than men do. The team associated this behaviour with childbirth and the long career interruptions that mothers often experience. Upon returning to work, mothers seem to take on-the-job training, possibly to compensate for the loss in productive skills implied by long non-working periods. The team finds that this training can be valuable, particularly for educated women who have not completed a college degree, and could be promoted to help close gender pay differentials.

This work is being followed up with research aiming to characterise whether adults go back into formal education and what impacts that may have on their outcomes. The team shows descriptive and causal evidence on the phenomenon of returning to education, a phenomenon that is quite common. Using Norwegian data, large effects of these investments were found.

Research team

Prof. Sir R. Blundell
Institute for Fiscal Studies

Prof. A. Vignoles
University of Cambridge

Prof. K.G. Salvanes
Norwegian School of Economics

Prof. E. Maurin
Paris School of Economics