The human capital construct is deep in the bones of economics and finds reference by many classical economists, even if they did not use the phrase. The term “human capital,” seldom mentioned in economics before the 1950s, increased starting in the 1960s and blossomed in the 1990s. The upsurge in NBER publications was even greater. Using EconLit codes from 1990 to 2019, the use of human capital among NBER books increased from 5% to 25%, whereas all economics books changed from 3% to 6%. For NBER working papers, 3% referenced human capital around 1990, but 10% have more recently. The figures for all economics articles are 4% and 6%. The NBER played an outsized role in the rise of the concept of human capital mainly because of the emphasis on empiricism at the NBER. We explore how the NBER was an incubator of human capital research and the ways human capital theory brought the NBER into the modern era of economics.
Men outnumber women as undergraduate economics majors by three to one nationwide. Even at the best research universities and liberal arts colleges men outnumber women by two to one or more. The Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge was begun in 2015 as an RCT with 20 treatment schools and at least 30 control schools to evaluate whether better course information, mentoring, encouragement, career counseling, and more relevant instructional content could move the needle. Although the RCT is still in the field, results from several within treatment-school randomized trials demonstrate that uncomplicated and inexpensive interventions can substantially increase the interest of women to major in economics
We study employers' perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees using a field experiment. We randomly assign the sector and selectivity of institutions to fictitious resumes and apply to real vacancy postings for business and health jobs on a large online job board. We find that a business bachelor's degree from a for-profit online institution is 22 percent less likely to receive a callback than one from a nonselective public institution. In applications to health jobs, we find that for-profit credentials receive fewer callbacks unless the job requires an external quality indicator such as an occupational license.