Yet, concerned by mounting inequality in America, he thought that more should be done to invest in early childhood education and improve the state of schools.
Becker applied his own prodigious reserves of human capital well beyond education.
He used his “economic approach” to look at everything from the motives of criminals and drug addicts to the evolution of family structures and discrimination against minorities.
In 1992 he was awarded the Nobel prize for extending economic analysis to new spheres of human behaviour.
He remains one of the most cited economists of the past half-century.
Mr Becker's way of doing economics, initially a radical challenge to convention, came under attack as it went mainstream.
The rise of behavioural economics, with its emphasis on limits to rationality, undercut his depiction of people as rational agents seeking to maximise welfare.
Improvements in data collection and analysis also gave rise to more detailed empirical research, instead of the wide-ranging concepts that he favoured.
Yet precisely because Mr Becker's analysis touched on so much, it still has a lot to offer.
Consider the debate on how governments ought to respond to disruptive technological change.
From the standpoint of human capital, one answer is obvious.
Technological advances mean that the knowledge that people acquire in school is becoming obsolete more quickly than before.
At the same time, longer life expectancies mean that the returns on mid-career training are higher than in the past.
It is therefore both necessary and possible to replenish human capital by designing better systems for lifelong learning.
This is just one element of the response to technological disruption but it is a vital one.
Becker never intended that his theory of human capital explain everything in economics, only that it explain a little about a lot.
On this count his work remains indispensable.