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Human Capital

Human Capital

Programme director: prof. dr. E.J.S. Plug.

Programme design


The programme is an empirically driven research programme which relies on microeconometric techniques to study important microeconomic issues in the areas of labour economics, economics of education, family economics and development economics. Particular emphasis is paid to the identification of causal mechanisms, the analysis of existing policies and policy changes on a variety of microeconomic outcomes, and the design and implementation of experiments to carefully evaluate policy interventions and their microeconomic consequences.  


Microeconomic models play an important role in understanding individual behavior in many economic areas; that is, predictions taken from microeconomic theories are often used to explain and understand individual economic circumstances, how differences between individuals can possibly account for differences in economic outcomes, and to what extent policies can influence individual economic circumstances.  But predictions are not easily verified and possibly false, with huge consequences for (the development of) microeconomic theory, policy and policy design. It is therefore crucial to test predictions of individual economic behavior with careful empirical work, using the most rigorous methods in applied microeconometrics.  


We are an applied microeconometrics group, covering various themes of research, with scope for individual research projects, internal and external joint work and cooperation and more formal cooperations.

There are currently two more formally defined research groups. The education and labour economists in the human capital group were integrated into TIER (Top Institute for Evidence Based Education Research) in 2008. Henriette Maassen van den Brink, director of TIER Amsterdam, saw the successful blend of scientific quality with policy relevance recognized through a large grant from NWO. TIER is now funded by the Ministry of Education (and matching by participating universities), but the grant is fully administered by NWO. The Institute is joint with RU Groningen and RU Maastricht. Research focuses on the effectiveness of policy interventions in education. At the end of 2012 the grant will expire.

TIER has ambitious goals: it wants to contribute to the improvement of the quality of education in the Netherlands by promoting the evidence based approach as a guiding principle in education policy and practice. It intends to accomplish this by developing (cost) effective education interventions that are grounded in scientific research and scientific insights. The research is funded through the NWO and must comply with the NWO formulated rules of evaluation.

The aim of the institute is to conduct excellent scientific research, to operationalise the results of this research and to put the results at the disposal of education policy and practice. The institute wants to develop knowledge of evidence based education that can be applied by:

  1. the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, in policy preparation and evaluation;
  2. the educational practice - such as teachers and educational institutions - in the allocation of means and when making educational choices;
  3. parents and students, when choosing a school or training. TIER aims to be an element that binds research, practice and policy in the field of education.

AIID (Amsterdam Institute for International Development) is a joint initiative of the University of Amsterdam and the VU University Amsterdam. AIID is a multidisciplinary research network with a strong focus on generating evidence to improve the design of policies to reduce poverty. Menno Pradhan and Jacques van der Gaag are AIID researchers who with their research on human capital and health and with impact evaluation of sector-wide programmes.

The two institutes, TIER and AIID, share the same ambition to perform research at the highest academic standards on issues with high societal relevance: education, labour, economic development of poor nations.  


Members of the human capital group are also associated to the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS). AIAS is an institute for multidisciplinary research and teaching at the University of Amsterdam. Founded in 1998, it brings together the University’s expertise in labour studies from the Faculties of Law, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Econometrics, and Medicine. Combining law, economics, sociology, psychology and occupational health studies, AIAS seeks to foster not only the results of their combined effect, but also to add value to the individual disciplines. Multidisciplinarity is strengthened by AIAS fellows: colleagues in and outside of the University of Amsterdam who are associated with AIAS to contribute to teaching or research at the Institute.

Affiliated Institutes