By Richard Vedder and Jordan Templeton:
A few days ago, we indicated to you that we have been doing estimates of the human capital stock of the United States, the compilation of which allows us to estimate the nation's total wealth. We believe that wealth approaches $500,000 a person, or roughly $1.5 million for a family of three. In a sense, we are a nation of millionaires.
Let us elaborate a bit. We estimate that about $59.4 trillion in wealth is in the form of male human capital, and $35.5 trillion is female human capital. Our guess is that the female component has expanded sharply for three reasons in recent years. First, the female share of the labor force has been growing for decades, and parity between the genders with respect to work may well come within a few years. Second, women are becoming increasingly dominant in the college trained population that provides a large proportion of that wealth. The typical college graduate has more than triple the human capital of the typical male with less than a high school education. Third, women have had some improvement in their compensation relative to males, in part because they increasingly occupy high paying managerial and professional jobs previously largely confined to males.
We would predict that most of the increase in human capital in modern times has come amongst females. Our economic capacity is being expanded largely by utilizing more fully the talents of the nation's female population.
Of the $95 trillion in human capital, slightly over half ($48.1 trillion) comes from people with bachelor's degrees and higher, a group that constitutes a far smaller portion (roughly 30 percent) of the working population. Over one half of the remaining human capital is represented by persons who have some college. Those with only a high school education or less possess roughly 20 percent of the nation's human capital.
All of this is interesting, but it raises more questions than it answers. How much of the human capital possessed by college graduates is a result of what they learned in college? How much results from their post-graduation work experiences --learning by doing? How much represents qualities that created human capital that predates college? These are not easy things to calculate, but we are trying. How much has the human capital stock changed over time, and what proportion of that increase is related to formal learning in school, and how much to other factors? The questions are many, and we at CCAP are trying to make a first pass at answering them. Stay tuned.
Richard Vedder is Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), and Jordan Templeton is a research assistant there and an undergraduate student at Ohio University.