Skill Formation

IZA’s research team “Skill Formation” examines the competencies that the workers of the future need to be successful in changing labor markets. Technological progress and globalization change the skills valued on the job in difficult to predict ways. Incumbent generations of workers have to update their skills when occupational knowledge becomes obsolete. Future generations of workers decide about skill investments under uncertainty about future skill returns. The role of public policy is to provide necessary formal education environments, but this can affect skill formation only with substantial time lags.

Against this overarching theme, our research pursues three lines of work:

  • Our analyses help identifying the skills needed to adapt to changing environments.
  • We contribute to a better understanding of the environments and determinants of skill formation to find potential levers for public policy interventions.
  • We provide empirical evidence on policy measures and interventions which aim at improving skill formation.



Dr. Ingo E. Isphording (Team Leader)

Selected ongoing projects

Evaluation of a Quality Standard for Training Programs in the School-to-Work Transition

Social Interactions in the Classroom, Educational Performance and Choices

Education Policies, Skill Formation, and Gender Inequality in Developing Countries


Recent publications

Refereed Journals

Altmann, Steffen; Grunewald, Andreas; Radbruch, Jonas (2021): Interventions and Cognitive Spillovers. Review of Economic Studies (forthcoming).

Bandiera, Oriana; Elsayed, Ahmed; Zipfel, Celine (2021): Youths, Jobs and the Development of Africa. Journal of Economic Perspectives (forthcoming).

Elsner, Benjamin; Isphording, Ingo E.; Zölitz, Ulf (2021): Achievement Rank Affects Performance and Choices in College. Economic Journal, ueab034.

Isphording, Ingo E.; Lipfert, Marc; Pestel, Nico (2021): Does Re-opening Schools Contribute to the Spread of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence from Staggered Summer Breaks in Germany. Journal of Public Eonomics, 198, Article 104426.



2nd Joint IZA & Jacobs Center Workshop: Consequences of Covid-19 for Child and Youth Development

6th IZA Workshop: The Economics of Education