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Human Capital and the Quality of Growth

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Abstract:

T. W. SCHULTZ was ahead of his time, at least among economists. The earliest postwar models of development emphasized accumulation of physical capital, and saw spending on health and education as a drain on the accumulation of "productive" assets. But eventually, the newer classical growth models incorporated formally Schultz's insight, and related work on accounting for growth by Hollis Chenery and colleagues at the World Bank pointed to the contribution of more skilled workers with more human capital to increased productivity and growth. The more recent endogenous growth models are even more emphatic. Sustainable growth in these models is the result in part of positive externalities generated by education, an important form of human capital. In these models, the new ideas and new technologies that are critical to high sustained growth rely fundamentally on high levels of human capital. The newer growth models thus provide a compelling justification for human capital investments as efficient and growth-enhancing. But unfortunately, in their simplest form they are poor guides to policy choices.