Human Capital

Human capital is a resilience capacity that enables people to pursue new and resilient livelihood opportunities.

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 through expanded livelihood opportunities and long-term changes in cultural and gender norms that further enable resilient communities.


Diversifying livelihoods to reduce or diversify risk can be an important source of resilience, but may require additional education and skills training. Moving into higher-income livelihoods, in particular, 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 levels of education in women are linked to better health outcomes for women and children and an increased ability to diversify income beyond subsistence agriculture. Educating girls is also linked to lower fertility rates, which reduces stress affecting the health and nutrition of women and children and reduces the burden on weak social services and limited natural resources.


Studies in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Niger have shown education or training of adult household members helps build resilience and reduces the need for humanitarian assistance, and girls’ education and reproductive health have been linked to resilience in West Africa. However, a number of barriers exist to building human capital, especially that of women, including cultural and gender norms that limit women’s decision-making power, weak and fragile systems at the local level to provide education and health services, and uncertain donor funding streams for reproductive health and girls’ secondary education.

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