Lance Lochner, Alexander Monge-Naranjo

We review studies of the impact of credit constraints on the accumulation of human capital. Evidence suggests that credit constraints are increasingly important for schooling and other aspects of households' behavior. We highlight the importance of early childhood investments, since their response largely determines the impact of credit constraints on the overall lifetime acquisition of human capital. We also review the intergenerational literature and examine the macroeconomic impacts of credit constraints on social mobility and the income distribution. A common limitation across all areas of the human capital literature is the imposition of ad hoc constraints on credit. We propose a more careful treatment of the structure of government student loan programs as well as the incentive problems underlying private credit. We show that endogenizing constraints on credit for human capital helps explain observed borrowing, schooling, and default patterns and offers new insights about the design of government policy.

Publication Type
Annual Review of Economics
Issue Number
JEL Codes
D14: Personal Finance
H52: National Government Expenditures and Education
I22: Educational Finance
I23: Higher Education and Research Institutions
J24: Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
human capital
incentive problems
government loans
early investments
social mobility