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Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital

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  • A'Hearn, Brian
  • Baten, Jörg
  • Crayen, Dorothee

Abstract

Age data frequently display excess frequencies at attractive numbers, such as multiples of five. We use this "age heaping" to measure cognitive ability in quantitative reasoning, or "numeracy". We construct a database of age heaping estimates with exceptional geographic and temporal coverage, and demonstrate a robust correlation of literacy and numeracy, where both can be observed. Extending the temporal and geographic range of our knowledge of human capital, we show that Western Europe had already diverged from the East and reached high numeracy levels by 1600, long before the rise of mass schooling or the onset of industrialization.
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  • A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:69:y:2009:i:03:p:783-808_00
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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