RIETI Special Seminar

"Creating Capabilities" by Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor James J. Heckman

  • Program, Handouts and Video
  • Summary


Professor James J. Heckman of the University of Chicago, a Nobel laureate in economics, will give a lecture on creating capabilities, and discussions will be enhanced with comments from researchers in this field.

This lecture presents recent research on the economics, psychology, and neuroscience of creating capabilities - the capacities to function in the economy and the larger society. Capabilities are multiple in nature. Performance in different tasks requires different combinations of capabilities. Capabilities are skills shaped by parenting, schooling, workplaces, and interactions with peers and mentors. They also have a strong genetic basis.

This research moves the conceptualization of skill and its measurement beyond the usual focus on schools and scores on achievement tests to a broader notion of the skills (capabilities) that matter and how they can be measured. It analyzes the life cycle evolution of capabilities. Different stages of the life cycle are relatively more productive in creating different capabilities. Early childhood is productive for creating all capabilities. Capabilities act synergistically in creating future capabilities. The implications of this analysis for policies to promote capability formation and for analyzing poverty, social mobility, and economic and social opportunity are developed.


  • Time and Date: 15:30 - 17:30, Wednesday, October 8, 2014
  • Venue: Shin-Kasumigaseki Bldg Lobby Floor, 3-3-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
  • Speaker: James J. HECKMAN (Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor at the University of Chicago / Economic Opportunity Working Group for New Economic Thinking)
  • Languages: English / Japanese (with simultaneous interpretation)
  • Admission: Free
  • Host: Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)
  • Seating Capacity: 350 (Pre-registration required. Please be aware that registration may close early if it reaches capacity.)
  • Contact: RIETI (Mr.) MURAKAMI (E-mail)
    Tel: 03-3501-8398 Fax: 03-3501-8416

Video (YouTube)

Purpose of Use of Collected Personal Information


15:30-15:35 Opening Remarks

NAKAJIMA Atsushi's photo

NAKAJIMA Atsushi (Chairman, RIETI)

15:35-16:35 Presentation: "Creating Capabilities"

James J. HECKMAN's photo

James J. HECKMAN (Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, The University of Chicago)


James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he has served since 1973. In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize. Heckman directs the Economic Research Center, the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago in the Division of Social Sciences, and the Center for Social Program Evaluation at the Harris School for Public Policy. He is Professor of Law at the University of Chicago School of Law, Senior Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He is also Director of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group, a research program funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking and supported by the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. Heckman received his B.A. in mathematics from Colorado College in 1965 and his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1971.

Heckman's work has been devoted to the development of a scientific basis for economic policy evaluation, with special emphasis on models of individuals and disaggregated groups, and to the problems and possibilities created by heterogeneity, diversity, and unobserved counterfactual states. In the early 1990s, his pioneering research on the outcomes of people who obtain the GED certificate received national attention. His findings, which found great deficiencies in the alleged value of the degree, spurred debates across the country on the merits of obtaining the certificate.

His recent research focuses on human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood development. His research has given policymakers important new insights into such areas as education, job-training programs, minimum-wage legislation, anti-discrimination law, social supports and civil rights.

Heckman is co-editor of The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life and Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law, and author of Giving Kids a Fair Chance and over 300 articles. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal in 1983, the Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005, the 2005 and 2007 Dennis Aigner Award for Applied Econometrics from the Journal of Econometrics, the Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin in 2006, the 2007 Theodore W. Schultz Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association, the Gold Medal of the President of the Italian Republic, awarded by the International Scientific Committee of the Pio Manzú Centre in 2008, the Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2009, and the Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society in 2014.


16:35-16:55 Comments

TACHIBANAKI Toshiaki's photo

TACHIBANAKI Toshiaki (Adviser, RIETI / Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University / Visiting Professor, Kyoto Women's University)


Toshiaki Tachibanaki has been Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University since 2007, and Visiting Professor at Kyoto Women's University, Visiting Professor at Doshisha University since April, 2014. He was Associate Professor of Economics, Kyoto Institute of Economic Research at Kyoto University (1979-1986), Professor of Economics, Kyoto Institute of Economic Research at Kyoto University (1986-2003), Professor, Graduate School of Economics and Faculty of Economics at Kyoto University (2003-2007). He has served as Research Counselor at RIETI before the current position as Advisor. He has also served as President of Japanese Economic Association 2005-2006. His research interests cover labor economics and public economics.

He is the author of "Unequal opportunity" Debate, PHP, 2013 (in Japanese) and many other publications. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University in 1973.


YAMAGUCHI Kazuo's photo

YAMAGUCHI Kazuo (Visiting Fellow, RIETI / Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology, The University of Chicago)


Kazuo Yamaguchi is Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and a visiting fellow at RIETI. He obtained Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 1981, and was Assistant Professor at Columbia University and Assistant-to-Associate Professor at UCLA before becoming Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago in 1991. He received Guggenheim fellowship in 2001-02, and was recognized as one of world's most cited authors in social sciences by the Institute of Scientific Information in 2003. Yamaguchi has more than 100 publications and is interested in statistical models for social phenomena, rational choice theory, social inequality and social stratification, family and employment, and Japanese society. Some of his publications include Event History Analysis from Sage in 1991, "Accelerated Failure Time Regression Models with a Regression Model of Surviving Fraction: An Application to the Analysis of 'Permanent Employment' in Japan" from Journal of the American Statistical Association in 1991, "The Stopping and Spacing of Childbirths and Their Birth-History Predictors: Rational-Choice Theory and Event-History Analysis" (with Linda Ferguson) from American Sociological Review in 1995, Work-Life Balance: Empirical Evidence and Policy Recommendations (in Japanese and Korean) in 2009 from Nikkei Newspaper Publications and Korean Researcch Instutute of Health and Social Affairs, and "Loglinear Causal Analysis" from Sociological Methodology in 2012.


16:55-17:30 Q&A Session


ICHIMURA Hidehiko's photo

ICHIMURA Hidehiko (Faculty Fellow, RIETI / Professor of Economics, Graduate School of Public Policy, The University of Tokyo)


Hidehiko Ichimura is Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Public Policy, the University of Tokyo and Faculty Fellow at RIETI. His main research area is econometric methods and he has published several influential papers widely used in policy evaluations.

For the past several years he has been leading the Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement (JSTAR), a research project to collect data on the Japanese elderlies to build a foundation for evidence-based policy analysis.

He received his Ph.D. in Economics from MIT and his B.A. in Economics from Osaka University.


AKABAYASHI Hideo's photo

AKABAYASHI Hideo (Professor of Economics, Keio University)


Hideo Akabayashi is Professor of Economics at Keio University. His research areas are in economics of education and family economics. His publications include an economic theory of child development and empirical investigations concerning the effects of class size and private school vouchers in Japan. He is a principal investigator for the Japan Child Panel Survey (JCPS), the first longitudinal data of children with measures of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills in Japan, which started in 2010 as a supplement to the Japan Household Panel Data (JHPS) at Keio. Before taking these positions, he served as a Japanese government official and as a consultant in the World Bank.

He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1996.


*Agenda is subject to change