Humane Capital: A Reexamination of Catholic Social Teachings in Light of the Shift to Human Capital

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Human capital is the set of productive knowledge, skills, and traits that individuals possess. Productive knowledge and skills are typically learned through education and work experience. Character traits matter both for the application of knowledge and skills and for their acquisition in the first place. In the past 100 years—and with enormous social consequences—the economy has transitioned to human capital being the most important resource for individual and social outcomes. Societies responded by emphasizing schooling as the means to develop this resource. In recent decades, however, researchers have discovered that human capital acquisition depends on certain character skills best developed early in life before schooling starts, typically within families. Current research and policy are investigating which combination of early life schooling and improvement in family circumstances can best help people acquire the character skills, and then human capital, needed to flourish. These changes have important implications for the social teachings of the Catholic Church, including moral insights into the distribution of resources, emphasis on the active subject in human work, and the role of civil society in promoting ideas and institutions conducive to an ideal human ecology.



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