1of19 – Human Capital and Intergeneration Mobility – Introduction


This the first lecture in the “Lectures on Human Capital” series by Gary Becker. This series of lectures recorded during the Spring of 2010 are from ECON 343 – Human Capital, a class taught every year by Gary Becker at the University of Chicago. In this class, Becker expounds upon the theory of Human Capital that he helped create and for which he won the Nobel Prize. Please see attached lecture notes, video annotations, and reading list for more information.

Professor Becker introduces the course objectives and discusses the main themes covered in his class. The main course subjects covered in the study of Human Capital are: investments in education in an altruistic model, trade-offs between human capital and physical capital investments, intergenerational income mobility, investments in health, marriage markets, fertility, on the job training, specialization and the division of labor, and the division of labor and the extent of the economy.

He defines human capital as special because it is inextricably linked to a human being and cannot be separated from her; the “capital” component comes because human capital like physical capital is durable. Becker establishes the main conceptual and practical similarities (i.e. economic return, depreciation, etc.) and differences (i.e. transferability, liquidity, etc.) and similarities between human and physical capital.
In this lecture, Becker establishes how he conceives of the study of Human Capital. He says that it is a subject of Economics that ties together micro and macroeconomics. The micro element comes from the link between parents and their children and the macro element because of how human capital is a main determinant of economic growth.

Key concepts: altruism with differences in ability, division of labor, education in an altruistic model, fertility, human capital, intergenerational income mobility, investments in health, marriage markets, physical capital, specialization and the division of labor.

Main discussions:
• Lecture 1, (11:50-13:05): Professor Becker discusses how human capital is involved in the more microeconomic aspects of economic behavior within the family and in the more macroeconomic aspects of economic development.
• Lecture 1, (14:45-21:15): Professor Becker explains one of the concepts that he reinforces throughout his class: the complementary between different forms of human capital and its implications.
• Lecture 1, (31:35-1:06:00): Professor Becker draws the main similarities and differences between human and physical capitals.

Main quotes:
• “(…) we’ll try to show how by starting at the Micro we can build up a better understanding of what’s going to happen at the Macro [level]”.

• Chapter II, Section 1: Human Capital Revisited in Becker, Gary. 1974. Human Capital. Third ed. pp. 15-25.
• Salvador Navarro Lozano. Notes on Gary Becker’s Human Capital and the Economy. pp. 5-6.

Lecture Notes:

Reading List:

Video Annotations:

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