skip to main content skip to footer



Quality assessments, groundbreaking research and measurement, and user-driven educational solutions

Learn more about ETS Research & Development.


Center for Research on Human Capital and Education: Policy Reports and Publications

Our researchers prepare actionable reports and publications on the acquisition, outcomes and inequities of human and social capital across a range of topics, including pre-K–12 education, higher education and the labor market.


Latest reports and publications

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, Earnings, and Employment of Americans with Postsecondary Education Below the Bachelor’s Degree (2023)

This report examines the growing interest in expanding access to postsecondary education through non-degree certificate programs and associate degree programs. This policy report seeks to better understand the implications of these trends by analyzing employment experiences and earnings outcomes of individuals whose highest level of educational attainment is below the bachelor’s degree.

Download (PDF)

Skills, Earnings and Employment of Postsecondary Education Below the Bachelor's Degree
Labor MarketSkills, Skill Use at 
Work, and Earnings 
of American Workers  Skills, Skill Use at 
Work, and Earnings 
of American Workers, Skills, Earnings and Employment of Postsecondary Education Below

Human Capital and the Labor Force Participation Behavior of American Men and Women (2023)

This report examines factors that are associated with the labor force participation behavior of working-age men and women in the United States with a focus on the connection between labor force participation and human capital skills and educational attainment. The analysis reveals very different patterns of labor force attachment for American men and women over the past 50 years. Findings suggest that policies targeted to bolster the human capital abilities of the working-age population to increase their labor force participation are likely to be more effective among women than among men.

Download (PDF)

Skill Use at Work and Earnings of American Workers thumbnail

Skills, Skill Use at Work, and Earnings of American Workers (2022)

This report builds on previous research from the Center on the effect of skills on the earnings of American workers by examining the use of workers’ skills on the job as an additional determinant of the earnings (in addition to human capital — literacy proficiencies, education, work experience — and other factors known to affect earnings). Findings highlight the importance of matching worker skills with skills required on the job.

Download (PDF)

Skill Use at Work and Earnings of American Workers thumbnail

Skills and Labor Market Outcomes of Working-Age Americans (2022)

This report explores critical links between human capital and a variety of labor market outcomes measured with 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.

Download (PDF)

thumbnail for skills and labor

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

This report explores the difference in wages between full- and part-time workers across a spectrum of occupations. Findings show that health and education professionals stand out because they face no hourly wage penalty for part-time work, unlike those working part-time in other sectors. The authors argue that despite variations among different groups of part-time workers, investments in human capital result in substantial gains in hourly pay.

Download (PDF)

Skills and Earnings in the Part-Time Labor Market

Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates (2019)

This report finds that college graduates with higher literacy and numeracy skills have a better chance of accessing higher-paying jobs, but many college graduates lack a minimum level of those skills and wind up mal-employed. Evidence suggests that employers are good at recognizing and rewarding literacy and numeracy skills. The authors argue that it’s incumbent upon us to increase awareness of the importance of those skills in an effort to move us to help all individuals acquire the human capital they’ll need for full participation in our society.

Download (PDF)

Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates

Skills and Earnings in the Full-Time Labor Market (2018)

This paper examines the independent effects of three key measures of human capital — literacy and numeracy skills, educational attainment and work experience — on the earnings of prime-age (25 to 54 years old), full-time employed workers in the United States. In line with human capital theory, this study finds a strong connection between earnings and each measure, with the details revealing strong gains for those with the most skills and education.

Download (PDF)


Skills and Earnings in the Full-Time Labor Market

Improving the Measurement of Civic Learning (2023)

This report discusses civic learning and the role that large-scale assessments can and should play in the measurement of this domain. The report applies advancements in measurement and learning sciences to explore how we can better measure students’ knowledge and skills in civics and U.S. history. The underlying message of the report is clear: To strengthen our democracy and civil society, we need to rethink how we educate our children and how we prioritize critical thinking both in and outside of the classroom.

Download (PDF)

Improving the Measurement of Civic Learning

Opportunity Across the States (2021)

This 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 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. The report is accompanied by 50 state briefs.

Download (PDF)

Download Opportunity Across the States

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

The role of education and skills in relation to work has undergone dramatic shifts over the last 40 years. Workers in middle-skill jobs, particularly those in traditionally blue-collar and semiskilled white-collar industries, are being displaced or asked to upskill or retrain at rates not witnessed since the industrial revolution. This report explores this challenge and provides a road map for building and augmenting the essential skills many workers will need to prosper now and in the future.

Download (PDF)

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

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.

Download (PDF)

How to Unlock the Power of Prison Education

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 student skills data, the report shows that little more than one-third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading in the United States. The authors offer actionable recommendations for improving the skills of these struggling readers.

Download (PDF)

Curbing America’s Reading Crisis: A Call to Action for Our Children

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.

Download (PDF)

Policy Report

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

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. This comprehensive report examines the magnitude of this crisis and presents a framework for developing evidence-based interventions and policies geared toward improving opportunity in America.

Download (PDF)

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. 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)
Play video button Thumbnail for Opportunity in America

Opportunity in America

This short and engaging film highlights stories about opportunity from across our nation.

View Transcript

Related research