Human Capital

Human capital builds resilience by enabling people to pursue new livelihood opportunities, such as education and skills training.

el salvador girl in classroom

Pursuing new and resilient livelihoods requires skills, education, acumen, and sufficient nourishment and health. Investments in education and health can lead to more resilient households. Expanded livelihood opportunities and long-term changes in cultural and gender norms further enable resilient communities.


Diversifying livelihoods to reduce risk and build resilience may require additional education and skills training. Moving into higher-income livelihoods usually requires increasing human capital in the form of education. Building women’s human capital can have a particularly high impact on household resilience.

Higher education levels in women are linked to better health outcomes for women and children. They are also linked to increased ability to diversify income beyond subsistence agriculture. Educating girls is also linked to lower fertility rates. This reduces stress affecting the health and nutrition of women and children. It also reduces the burden on weak social services and limited natural resources.


Studies in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Niger have shown effects of educating adult household members. Results indicate it helps build resilience and reduces the need for humanitarian assistance. Investments in girls’ education and reproductive health have been linked to resilience in West Africa.

However, a number of barriers exist to building human capital, especially for women. Cultural and gender norms often limit women’s decision-making power. Systems at the local level providing education and health services are often weak and fragile. And donor funding streams for reproductive health and girls’ secondary education are often uncertain.

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