Title: Opportunities for education and education for opportunities: integrating human capital and human capabilities in understanding the value of education.
Citation: 2011 HDCA conference
Publisher: Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA)
Publication Year: 2011
JRC N°: JRC68010
URI: http://www.ethicsandtechnology.eu/subsite/hdca_conference_2011
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Most people spend the biggest faction of their time and efforts on education and work. It is common to think of the former of the two to be the first step in reaching the latter. There are two conventions widely accepted both among academics and general public. First considers education to be an investment decision; second sees it as a mean to achieve an employment success measured by earnings. In this article we question these statements. Firstly, we go beyond the wage-determined views on the employment outcomes. Secondly, we try to shed some light on the outcomes from education other then the ones related to performance on the labor market. Finally, we try to establish to which extent educational choices are determined by the opportunities and resources that are conditioned on the set of personal characteristics, family socio-economic position and institutional environment, and on the individual’s ability to access and employ these resources. We start from looking for the theoretical grounds for our research question by investigating the possibility to combine human capital theory (HCT) and the capabilities approach (CA). Though HCT was widely recognized as an important tool in microanalysis used to study the courses of economic wellbeing and the forces underlying the educational choices as investment decisions, it has lately been criticized for the restricted instrumental role assigned to education and for disregarding other important non-material aspects related to it, as well as for its inability to satisfactory reflect cultural, gender, emotional, historical differences that can affect educational choices and individual’s well-being. Today’s social sustainability, economic competitiveness and individual-oriented accents of knowledge societies made many think of alternative approaches to assessing other, non-monetary, aspects of human well-being, with the CA being one of the most popular among them. The CA conceives human beings in a broad perspective; it goes beyond the notion of human capital, by acknowledging the instrumental value of education in promoting productivity, economic growth and individual incomes but also the direct relevance that education can have in terms of individual well-being and freedom, as well as for social development. We then bring the discussion on complementarity between the HCT and the CA into the empirical dimension. This not only allows us to provide some evidence to our hypothesis, but also to tackle me measurement limitations of the HCT. Two common weaknesses shared by the measurement techniques used in the classical human capital framework are a monetary aggregation of heterogeneous components of human development and a measurement error. This paper is addressing the former weakness by extending the classical evaluative framework to integrate the elements of CA. We see the main contribution of this study in undertaking the first step towards an ambitious objective to integrate HCT and CA in one empirically testable model used to assess the value of education. It presents a few speculations, which allow making preliminary hypothesis about theoretical and empirical comparability and complementarity of HCT and capabilities approach.
JRC Directorate:Growth and Innovation

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