Asset Building Working Paper

Human Capital and Social Work

This article is an update and continuation of Theodore Schultz’s seminal, but largely unheeded, 1959 article on human capital. Like Schultz, we suggest that building human capital should be a key development strategy for social workers. Empirical research demonstrates that human capital has important positive outcomes. However, opportunities for human capital development are not equally accessible to all. By facilitating human capital development among disadvantaged groups, social workers can help individuals obtain skills that will enable them to compete in post-industrial labor markets. This emphasis on investment and development is particularly relevant today since, in the current political climate, there is declining support for residual and consumption-oriented interventions. After documenting outcomes from human capital and differential opportunities for human capital development, we offer suggestions for facilitating human capital among low-income groups.


Beverly, S. G., & Sherraden, M. (1997). Human capital and social work (CSD Working Paper No. 97-2). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.