The Cycle of Human Capital and How People Are Breaking It

Samantha Bucklar – Honorbound In Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan talks about the cycles of human capital and how it runs through families.  Wheelan says that your human capital usually mirrors your parents; therefore saying that if your parents have a low human capital that you will in turn also have a lower than average one.[1] I agree with Wheelan’s thought process, but there will always be exceptions. How do the exceptions happen? How does someone whose family that has a very low human capital do the ‘impossible’ and build their skills and go to schools like Harvard and Yale?

Charles Wheelan describes human capital as the “sum total of skills embodied within an individual: education, intelligence, charisma, creativity, work experience, entrepreneurial vigor, even the ability to throw a baseball fast. It is what you would be left with if someone stripped away all of your assets.”[2] As seen from this definition, human capital is full of characteristics that can be easier to inherit from your family.  If your family is in the upper middle class then their children will most likely have a good education, manners, and work experience. From what I have read and seem personally, if a family is not as wealthy or financially stable it is most likely harder to receive a good education that teaches you about the entrepreneurial vigor and techniques that Wheelan talks about.

Today, one of the most important things that a person should focus on to grow their human capital is education. In 2011 at the World Bank, Human Development Network Forum, Arne Duncan pointed out that “education today is inseparable from the development of human capital.”[3] One major way that people are breaking the cycle is through programs that are being offered to students; for example, an up and coming one that is catching people’s attention is the Students Rising Above program. The “SRA identifies promising students and helps them afford college by providing tuition assistance and securing financial aid from the college…, the SRA then continues on with students through college, providing emotional support and guidance.”[4] Not only is the program helping college become a reality for first generation college students, but they are also helping them gain skills and techniques to help them succeed there and gain skills to thrive in the outside world. I think that the most important thing to notice is that to be helped by the SRA, the students first have to start building their human capital on their own by not only going to school, but to also study and pay attention.  In relation to the SRA, the World Bank “has invested $69 billion in more than 1,500 education projects around the globe” since it first started investing in educational development.[5]

While improving ones human capital is never an easy feat, the people who are able to beat all odds are more often than not the ones who recognize that education “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and without it, breaking the cycle of your family’s human capital will be that much harder.[6]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002.

[2] Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002.

[3] “Improving Human Capital in a Competitive World — Education Reform in the U.S.” U.S. Department of Education. March 3, 2011. Accessed December 04, 2016. http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/improving-human-capital-competitive-world-education-reform-us.

[4] “The Dynamics of Poverty.” Boundless. Accessed December 04, 2016. https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/stratification-inequality-and-social-class-in-the-u-s-9/poverty-78/the-dynamics-of-poverty-466-9613/.

[5] “Improving Human Capital in a Competitive World — Education Reform in the U.S.” U.S. Department of Education. March 3, 2011. Accessed December 04, 2016. http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/improving-human-capital-competitive-world-education-reform-us.

[6] “Improving Human Capital in a Competitive World — Education Reform in the U.S.” U.S. Department of Education. March 3, 2011. Accessed December 04, 2016. http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/improving-human-capital-competitive-world-education-reform-us.

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