Date of Award

Fall 11-30-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Studies and Public Affairs


Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

First Advisor

Hill, Edward W. (Ned)

Subject Headings

Education Policy, Labor Economics, Public Policy, Urban Planning


A region's workforce has been described as its greatest asset. Guided by human capital theory and new growth theory, regions have pursued economic development policies to increase the number of college-educated workers and expand the pool of STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math -- talent. Academic literature and policy interventions have focused on a region's human capital in terms of educational attainment instead of a more fine-grained definition of human capital based on skills and competencies. This dissertation integrates economic and business theory and combines three federal databases to explore regional human capital assets. Findings suggest that policymakers may be overestimating the importance of STEM knowledge requiring a bachelor's degree or higher and undervaluing the importance of soft skills such as communication and critical-thinking. Moreover, results indicate that regions may be best served by crafting distinct human capital interventions that reflect the particular needs of their mix of industry.