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Human Capital and Education Research Reports

The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education produces high-quality, evidence-based research that explores critical issues impacting opportunity in America today.

Our researchers leverage ETS's work on national and international large-scale assessments to explore the acquisition, outcomes and inequalities of human and social capital across a range of topics including pre-K–12 education, teacher quality, higher education, workforce readiness and noncognitive skills.

Upcoming reports

Human Capital and Labor Market Outcomes of Prime Age Workers explores critical links between human capital and a variety of labor market outcomes measured with Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data and offers a unique perspective on the link between human capital and labor market experiences over the life cycle. This exploration has the potential to suggest policy interventions targeted to individuals by age group to better support their success in the labor market.

Latest reports and publications

Opportunity Across the States (2021)

This new policy report examines opportunity at the state level by looking at key variables that measure a state's well-being (issues relating to income/poverty, the labor market, health outcomes and safety), aggregate stock of human capital (education and skills), and social capital (civic engagement, networks, trust and social cohesion). The report is accompanied by state briefs that provide key data on well-being, human capital and social capital for each state in the United States.

The findings of the report suggest that levels of human and social capital and a state's level of well-being are highly interdependent and influence each other in complex ways. Conceptualizing opportunity as an interplay between these critical domains requires us to view the challenges we face as a nation and, perhaps more importantly, the solutions proposed to address these challenges in new ways.

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Opportunity Across the States (2021)

Buttressing the Middle: A Case for Reskilling and Upskilling America's Middle-Skill Workers in the 21st Century (2021)

This report explores the current challenge facing middle-skilled workers and provides a road map for building and augmenting the essential skills they need to prosper now and in the future.

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Buttressing the Middle: A Case for Reskilling and Upskilling America's Middle-Skill Workers in the 21st Century (2021)

How to Unlock the Power of Prison Education (2020)

The role of education in reentry planning and recidivism is explored in this report produced by ETS and authored by Stephen J. Steurer. The report presents a compelling case for why immediate steps must be taken to improve the education and skills of the incarcerated population.

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How to Unlock the Power of Prison Education (2020)

Curbing America's Reading Crisis: A Call to Action for Our Children (2019)

This report explores some of the reasons for low reading and comprehension proficiency, focusing on a lack of foundational reading skills in older students. Using just-released data, it shows that little more than one-third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, with minority and urban students disproportionately affected. The authors offer actionable recommendations for improving the skills of struggling readers.

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Curbing America's Reading Crisis: A Call to Action for Our Children (2019)

If You Can't Be With the Data You Love: And the Risks of Loving the Data You're With (2019)

This study from researchers at Drexel University and ETS finds that the skills of working adults are not as closely connected to levels of educational attainment as widely thought. Using data on the literacy proficiencies of U.S. adults, the study shows that diploma and degree attainment is a less than satisfactory proxy for skills, as nearly 34 million employed Americans would be misclassified by relying on credentials to assess their skills.

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If You Can't Be With the Data You Love: And the Risks of Loving the Data You're With (2019)

Impact of Human Capital in the American Labor Market Series

This series explores the importance of a key element of human capital — cognitive skills — that has only recently been available for adults for examination, along with educational credentials, in the United States. Using measures of the literacy and numeracy skills of American workers from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), this series examines the central role that these skills play, alongside years of work experience and educational attainment, in influencing a range of labor-market outcomes.

Skills and Earnings in the Part-Time Labor Market (2020)

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Skills and Earnings in the Part-Time Labor Market (2020)

Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates (2019)

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Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates (2019)
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A Story of Opportunity in America

Opportunity has always been intangible, but for increasing numbers of Americans, it's becoming invisible. In 2014, ETS launched a 2-year exploration to shed light on the rising inequality of opportunity that is leaving many Americans behind. The result of this effort includes a report that takes a broad view of the challenges we face, a book containing research from leaders from a range of fields related to opportunity and a short film highlighting stories about opportunity from across our nation. Together, these inform the work of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education.

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Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America (2016)

This comprehensive report examines the magnitude of the crisis of opportunity in America and its long-term implications. Interactions among powerful global economic forces, government policies and business practices have generated a self-sustaining set of dynamics that have led to increasing economic, social and political polarization, with the accumulation of advantage or disadvantage experienced by one generation passed along to the next.


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A Story of Opportunity in America

The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (2016)

Written by leaders from a range of fields — including education, economics, demography and political science — this book illuminates key aspects of the problem of inequality of opportunity and provides a range of recommendations to reverse harmful trends.

Across the country, our children are beginning life from very different starting points. Some have aspirations and believe they can be achieved. For too many others, aspirations are tempered, if not dashed, by the sobering realities of everyday life. These different starting points place children on distinctly different trajectories of growth and development, ultimately leading to vastly different adult outcomes. Written in an engaging style, this volume constitutes an essential foundation for informed discussion and strategic analysis.

Purchase the book or download a free copy

The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (2016)