Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



This chapter examines John Tomer’s contributions to our understanding of the concept of human capital. Tomer criticized the standard mainstream view of the concept as narrowly focused on education and training and as seeing investments in human capital as having “an individual, cognitive, and machine-like nature.” A broader concept included attention to the people’s noncognitive development, and employed both social capital and personal capital concepts. This produces a more expansive view of human development, allows for a humanistic psychological perspective, and supports a multi-dimensional, Maslovian understanding of the hierarchy of human needs. Tomer framed his policy thinking regarding investments in human capital in terms of the goal of helping people become ‘smart’ persons. He recognized that a barrier to accomplishing this is high levels of economic inequality. The chapter thus goes on to discuss how socially stratified societies generate economic inequality in regard to human capital investments, and how thinking in terms of people’s capabilities can help us advance progressive economic and social policies agendas.

Included in

Economics Commons