Childhood investments and skill formation


The skills needed to ensure good life chances are rising (and changing) and, despite decades of education reforms, there has been little progress in terms of equalizing opportunities. The impact of social origins on child outcomes persists, and may even strengthen. This suggests that the pursuit of more equality and future productivity come together. A major challenge is to minimize the dispersion of skills. The foundations of policy lie in the realization that learning abilities are formed during the first years of childhood. The pursuit of an optimal human capital policy needs to consider three issues: (1) the uneven capacity of parents to invest in children; (2) the impact of mothers’ employment on child outcomes; and, (3) the potential benefits of early pre-school programmes.

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Correspondence to Gosta Esping-Andersen.

Additional information

I would like to thank Lans Bovenberg, Julio Carabaña, Ruud de Mooij, Brian Nolan, and Jane Waldfogel for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. I would, in particular, thank Berkay Ozcan and Stefanie Brodmann for research assistance. Research for this paper was supported by a grant from the Fundacion BBVA.

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Esping-Andersen, G. Childhood investments and skill formation. Int Tax Public Finance 15, 19–44 (2008) doi:10.1007/s10797-007-9033-0

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  • Human capital
  • Inter-generational mobility
  • Parental investments
  • Mothers’ employment
  • Child outcomes


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