Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Research areas Education, skills and human capital

Education, skills and human capital

The human capital or skill force of a nation plays a critical role in determining the productivity and growth of its economy, the well-being of its population, and the level of social and economic inequality. Skills – both hard and soft – are shaped across the life-cycle through a series of private and public investments, made by parents, employers, and society as a whole through public spending on education.

IFS has made important contributions to understanding the process through which human capital is accumulated, how different types of skills relate to adult well-being, and how effective human capital policies are at promoting skill accumulation.

Our research in this area includes work on the role of the family and the importance of parenting and the home environment for the development of children. It also includes work on the determinants and effectiveness of educational investments, from early childcare and pre-school education, through to primary and secondary schools, post-compulsory schooling, higher education and adult learning. For example, we have evaluated the impact of interventions, such parenting programmes, school breakfast clubs, teacher training programmes, financial incentives designed to broaden university access, as well as vocational and job training programmes. We have also done research on school quality and the long-term impact of school starting age on academic achievements and skill formation.

Our rigorous research makes IFS an important actor in the public debate on education and human capital policy. For example, we frequently analyze and comment on school and higher education funding reforms. We have also performed a comprehensive analysis of the long-run trends in education spending and of the extent to which such spending is redistributive.

Selected highlights

Report
2019_annual_report_on_education_spending_in_england
Education spending is the second-largest element of public service spending in the UK behind health, representing about £91 billion in 2018–19 in today’s prices or about 4.2% of national income.
Journal article | Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics
Graduates from higher income families (with median income of around £77,000) have average earnings which are 20% higher than those from lower income families (with median income of around £26,000). Once we condition on institution and subject choices, this premium roughly halves, to around 10%.
Report
We have established a new partnership between academics, local government and early years practitioners to develop, implement and evaluate a home-visiting programme for parents with very young children in England. In this feasibility study, we research local priorities and existing services to ...
Journal article | Review of Economic Studies
In this paper, we use an economic model to analyse data from a major randomized social experiment, namely PROGRESA in Mexico, and to evaluate its impact on school participation.

Contacts

Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or mailbox@ifs.org.uk

Jack Britton
Associate Director
Sarah Cattan
Associate Director
Christine Farquharson
Senior Research Economist
Wenchao (Michelle) Jin
Research Economist
Laura van der Erve
Research Economist
( 437 results found )
Report
Going to university is a very good investment for most studentsOver their working lives, men will be £130,000 better off on average by going to university after taxes, student loan repayments and foregone earnings are taken into account. For women, this figure is £100,000. (These and other ...
Observation
What are the main parties’ spending proposals for young people in further education and sixth forms, and for adult education? To what extent will they reverse the cuts we’ve seen to date?
Observation
Here we outline an initial response from IFS researchers on the Conservative party manifesto. We take policy areas by turn but this is not a full assessment.
Briefing note
This Election Briefing Note provides a summary of the current higher education funding system in England and investigates the two big reform packages that are currently on the table going into the 2019 General Election.
Briefing note
Support for childcare and the early years is shaping up to be a major issue in this election campaign. To date, both the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have promised enormous increases in the generosity of England’s free childcare system,[1] with money for extra funding per hour, extra ...
Briefing note
Early education and childcare has also become an increasingly important part of the education spending landscape. Between 2009–10 and 2018–19, annual spending on free childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds rose by almost £1,900 per child (in today’s prices) and we spent £3.3 billion last year on ...
Journal article
Global access to preschool has increased dramatically yet preschool quality is often poor.
IFS Working Paper WP19/23
Global access to preschool has increased dramatically yet preschool quality is often poor. We use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate two approaches to improving the quality of Colombian preschools.
Report
Education spending is the second-largest element of public service spending in the UK behind health, representing about £91 billion in 2018–19 in today’s prices or about 4.2% of national income.
Book chapter
School spending covers pupils in state-funded schools aged 5–16, as well as pupils aged 16–18 in school sixth forms. In 2018–19, total school spending in England – excluding early years and sixth-form funding – stood at about £44 billion in 2019–20 prices.