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The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education

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.

Latest Publications

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.

Equity in Education Series

This Series provides a multifaceted exploration of prospects for developing indicators of teaching quality. These measures would move beyond inputs and outcomes to capture important features of what happens in the classroom that could lead to more equitable access to high-quality teaching for traditionally underserved students. This series explores a range of issues, focusing particularly on the promise of specific measurement strategies for producing indicators that can lead to a more just distribution of teaching quality.

Quest for Quality: An Indicator System for Teaching (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 newly available measures of the literacy and numeracy skills of American workers from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, 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. In an age where status, prestige, and credentials have taken center stage, this series seeks to return the education debate to its core — the fundamental need for skills to succeed in life.

Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates

Skills and the Earnings of College Graduates (2019)

Skills and Earnings in the Full-Time Labor Market

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

Other Reports

Retooling Literacy Education for the Twenty-First Century

Retooling Literacy Education for the Twenty-First Century: Key Findings of the Reading for Understanding Initiative and Their Implications (2018)

This report from ETS, working with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), frames the need for a focused, national effort to achieve universal, advanced reading literacy, arguing it is an issue of equity as well as individual and national prosperity. It then presents a discussion of practical recommendations for lead practitioners, summarizing key insights from the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative, remaining research challenges, and policy and practice recommendations for enhancing reading achievement from preK–12.

Too Big to Fail: Millennials on the Margins

Too Big to Fail: Millennials on the Margins (2018)

This important new paper expands traditional understandings of "disconnected youth" — young adults who are not attached to educational institutions or the labor market — by including cognitive skills in the conception of what it means to be "disconnected." The authors demonstrate that in addition to those millennials who are out of work or not in education, large segments of the employed and those in education with low skills are marginalized. Also explored are critical aspects of inequality and the implications for the United States when large segments of those transitioning to adulthood lack the opportunity to thrive.

America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future

America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future (2015)

The authors of this report argue that there is an apparent paradox for U.S. millennials: While they may be on track to be our most educated generation ever, they consistently score below many of their international peers in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments. Equally troubling is that these findings represent a decrease in literacy and numeracy skills when compared to results from previous years of U.S. adult surveys. This report sheds light on the growing inequality of opportunity in the United States and the impact on skills acquisition and outcomes for both current and future generations.

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 two-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.

Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America

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. Choosing Our Future argues that ignoring these forces will lead to growing disparities among our citizens and place an unsustainable strain on the nation's social fabric and the character of our democracy.

The Dynamics 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.

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