Human capital is an important part of GDP forecasting. Do the models in use today view humans as "blank slate", meaning they can be educated to the same level, or do they take into account heritability of human abilities?


2 Answers 2


Standard economic treatments of skill generally assume that people have some baseline level of skill (human capital) which varies over people, and also that skill (human capital) can be improved via education or other methods.

Most of the time, models don't specify why baseline skill varies over individuals, but heritability would presumably be one reason. There are certainly some generational or evolutionary models that assume that parent and child baseline skill levels are correlated, which is in effect a heritability assumption.

As for GDP forecasting specifically, most GDP forecasting methods focus more on education level as the primary (or only) measure of human capital (both the average level and its distribution), but this is likely because baseline skill can't be measured very well, and can be proxied pretty effectively by education anyway because of selection effects.

So, in short, no, economic models aren't blank-slate, although using education as the only measure of human capital, which is sometimes done for pragmatic reasons, does look a tiny bit like a blank-slate assumption.


This would mainly be observed as "endowments", such as in intergenerational macro models which use (e.g.) 1 or more representative households in relation to resources initially available to individuals, who then face various constraints (generally modelled as a differential market interest rate for borrowers and savers).

I am not aware of reputable works which delve into the matter of whether all humans are identically formable, or re-formable.

Among other things, it would be difficult to sustain any reliable theory on the matter without having assured all individuals to have perfectly equal access to all resources required to obtain resources required to earn market income, such as identical access to learning resources in the household, identical access to learning resources outside of the household, and identical access to networks and opportunities both within and outside of learning environments. All of those would necessitate substantial changes, which are opposed by vested interests who appear to prefer to be able to take advantage of the status quo to preferentially distribute opportunity.

For the above-specified reasons, it is unlikely that debates about whether human are identically formable, or re-formable, will achieve mainstream status in economics. That is not to say that there is not value in at least some works in this area, and associated debate that it may provoke.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.