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Quantifying quantitative literacy: Age heaping and the history of human capital

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  • Brian A'Hearn
  • Jörg Baten
  • Dorothee Crayen

Abstract

Age data frequently display excess frequencies at round or attractive ages, such as even numbers and multiples of five. This phenomenon of age heaping has been viewed as a problem in previous research, especially in demography and epidemiology. We see it as an opportunity and propose its use as a measure of human capital that can yield comparable estimates across a wide range of historical contexts. A simulation study yields methodological guidelines for measuring and interpreting differences in age heaping, while analysis of contemporary and historical datasets demonstrates the existence of a robust correlation between age heaping and literacy at both the individual and aggregate level. To illustrate the method, we generate estimates of human capital in Europe over the very long run, which support the hypothesis of a major increase in human capital preceding the industrial revolution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 996.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:996

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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Keywords: Human Capital; Age Heaping; Growth; Industrial Revolution; Numeracy;

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  1. Brian A'Hearn & Jörg Baten & Dorothee Crayen, 2006. "Quantifying quantitative literacy: Age heaping and the history of human capital," Economics Working Papers 996, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jörg Baten & Dorothee Crayen, 2008. "Global Trends in Numeracy 1820-1949 and its Implications for Long-Run Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 2218, CESifo Group Munich.
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  1. Measuring centuries of numerical literacy
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-06-19 08:15:00
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