Creating Flourishing Lives: The Dynamics of Capability Formation. James J. Heckman

James J. Heckman
Director, Center for the Economics of Human Development, University of Chicago
Amartya Sen Lecture
Human Development and Capability Association September 11th, 2015 — Washington, D.C.

James J. Heckman (Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor at the University of Chicago),  introduced various studies from the perspectives of economics, psychology, and neuroscience and demonstrated their implications for policies to promote the development of capabilities.

Many studies of the features of family life that contribute to developing children who lead  flourishing lives point in the same direction, and show the harm that ensues when such investments are not made. The way parents interact with their children, the amount of time they spend with them and the resources they have to provide intellectual and social stimulation greatly affect their children’s potential for leading  flourishing lives.

James J. Heckman argues that capabilities are the capacities of individuals to function in society. Disparities in capabilities are major contributors to economic and social inequality. Policies that equalize opportunities to express and acquire capabilities across all segments of society reduce inequality. They foster social inclusion and promote economic and social mobility. They generate economic productivity and create social well-being. They give agency to people to shape their lives.

Essential elements for successful childhoods include engaged, supporting parents and teachers and early health, nutrition and learning.

• Cognitive Skills

• Produce better health practices; produce more motivation; greater perception of rewards greater self  control.

• Efective policies for adolescents provide mentoring and integrate schooling and work.

• Predistribution of skills not just Redistribution

• Giving people autonomy, agency, and dignity

• Boosting the capabilities of children entering school boosts the benefits of education for them.

• Early development is as important as education in promoting wages, employment, and health.