Economics of human development

Researching socioeconomic disadvantage in human development

We are addressing the question of long-term effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on the evolution of human potential. Why are some people more likely to succeed than others?

We aim to make access to good parenting a basic human right. So far we know that the foundation of human potential is laid early in life, and human development is not necessarily linear or path-dependent. Cognitive, socio-emotional and health functioning are intricately linked, and any approach in boosting lifetime health needs to start from an individual’s cognitive and socio-emotional capacities.

Our collaborative team is exploring various research questions, some with direct policy implications. These include:

  • the most important childhood environmental factors that determine human potential and long-term health, such as socioeconomic disadvantage or exposure to bad parenting behaviours
  • how malleable human potential is over the lifespan
  • windows of opportunities to intervene to change human potential
  • how the education sector can contribute to the development of human potential
  • how costly it is growing up in the ‘wrong family’ in terms of foregone education, labour market opportunities, and lifetime health
  • the cost-effectiveness and effectiveness of adulthood interventions in changing human potential
  • the cost-effectiveness and effectiveness of parenting interventions in boosting human potential in the long-term.

The dynamics in human potential over the lifespan is being explored using both observational and experimental data as well as new data sources created and survey and experimental data collected.

We are collaborating with epidemiologists, psychologists, and medical doctors to produce new data and insights into human development. Our overarching objective is to address why we observe such strong socioeconomic differences in health and productivity outcomes over the lifecycle and why it is so difficult to change non-productive behaviours around health.

We are conducting randomised controlled trials aimed at improving parenting behaviour, along with estimations of the efficacy of policy interventions designed to boost the development of individuals and break the cycle of disadvantage.

Project Node Leader

Associate Professor Stefanie Schurer
Professor Stefanie Schurer
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