Workshop: "Quantifying knowledge"

Conference: “Quantifying knowledge: human capital measurement, ca. 1700-2010”

pdf version

Format: Two-day workshop

Practical Information

Date: Friday 9 – Saturday 10 December, 2011

Venue: Centre for Global Economic History, Utrecht, the Netherlands (

In recent decades much effort has been made to reach a better understanding of the role of human capital in long-run economic growth. Whereas some use proxy measure such as age heaping, average years, other use direct measures such as expenditure on education or earnings derived from investments in human capital (measuring the present value of future cash flows resulting from human capital investment). Yet, while many studies have been done in this field, very few of them focus on the comparability of the estimates of human capital, even though measurement issues are probably crucial in the empirics of growth. The idea is to bring together ca. 12-14 people to discuss the strength and weaknesses of the human capital measures in a comparative perspective. Examples of questions that may be asked are

a) Does a human capital measure provide the same information over time (e.g. provides expenditure on education in the 19th century the same information as in the 20th century)?

b) Can a human capital measure be used indiscriminately across countries (e.g. gives age heaping in China and Europe the same information)?

c) How can they be combined into a single coherent measure of human capital (Can we create an integral human capital variable running from the medieval period until the present)?

The Centre for Global Economic History is part of the Research Institute for History and Culture of Utrecht University and is ca. 15 minutes walk from the main railway station

The organizers offer a maximum of 3 night stay in a hotel nearby as well as travel expenses when necessary.

For more information contact Peter Foldvari (email:

The workshop is organized by Peter Foldvari and Bas van Leeuwen, and is part of the clio-infra initiative as well as the Centre of Global Economic History.


Preliminary programme

Friday 9 December

8:15 Welcome with coffee and tea.

8.45 Introduction.

9-10.30: Session 1: early developments in human capital

Onno Boonstra: A method for calculating the strength and shape of age heaping
abstract and paper

Sven Meeder: The Carolingian renaissance and human capital formation in eighth- and ninth-century Europe
abstract and paper

Ralph Hippe: Numeracy, so what? The relationship between numeracy and literacy: abstract and paper

10.30-11: coffee

11-12.30: Session 2: Holland and England

Sandra dePleijt: The Role of Human Capital in the Process of Economic Development: The Case of England, 1307-1900
abstract and paper

Nina Boberg‐Fazlic and Jacob Weisdorf: Human Capital Formation from Occupations: England 1550-1850

Peter Foldvari, Bas van Leeuwen, and Jan Luiten van Zanden: On the Road to Modern Economic Growth: the Holland Economy, ca. 1510-1807
abstract and paper


12.30-14.00 lunch

14.00-15.30: Session 3: Economic Systems and Education

Clara Eugenia Núñez and Begoña Moreno Castaño: Human capital deflators across time: Spanish High-Schools 1860-1970
abstract and paper

Emanuele Felice: The determinants of Italy’s regional imbalances over the long run: exploring the contributions of human and social capital
abstract and paper

Jonas Ljungberg: Swedish input and output of the education sector paper

15.30-16.00: coffee

16.00-17.00: Session 4: Africa and Latin America

Ewout Frankema: Colonial education systems and their post-colonial development impact in the Congo and Indonesia
abstract and paper


19.00- 21.00: dinner


Saturday 10 December

9.00-10.30: Session 5: Asia

Jieli Li, Bas van Leeuwen, and Peter Foldvari: Regional Human Capital in Republican and New China - Its spread, quality and effects on economic growth
abstract and paper

Yoshihisa Godo: A New Database on Education Stock in the Philippines
abstract and paper

Dmitry Didenko, Peter Foldvari, and Bas van Leeuwen: Central planning, economic growth: a theoretical and empirical application on the USSR and Central Europe ca. 1920-2000

10.30-11.00: coffee

11.00-12.30: Session 6: A Global Perspective & Final discussion

Joerg Baten and Mikolaj Szoltysek: The Human Capital of Central-Eastern Europe and Eastern Europe in European Perspective
abstract and paper

Christiaan Morrisson and Fabrice Murtin: The Kuznetz Curve of Education: A Global Perspective on Education Inequalities 1870-2010
abstract and paper

12.30-13.30: lunch

The end