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Benchmarking the effective literacy rate

  • Lee, Travis

Several authors have identified an externality accruing to proximate illiterates, that is, illiterate people with access to a literate person. The standard literacy rate ignores this externality; measures of effective literacy are sensitive to it. Nearly all measures of effective literacy appearing in the literature are greater than or equal to R. In fact, the best known of these, the Basu-Foster measure , is strictly greater in virtually every case (see Basu and Foster [Basu, Kaushik, Foster, James, 1998. On measuring literacy. Economic Journal 108 (451), 1733-1749]). Although the inequality is an unintended consequence of their construction, it amounts to setting a benchmark for the effective literacy rate. This note examines Basu and Foster's framework and offers an alternative benchmark.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Mathematical Social Sciences.

Volume (Year): 56 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (September)
Pages: 233-239

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Handle: RePEc:eee:matsoc:v:56:y:2008:i:2:p:233-239
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505565

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  1. Subramanian, S., 2004. "Measuring literacy: some extensions of the Basu-Foster framework," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 453-463, February.
  2. Basu, Kaushik & Narayan, Ambar & Ravallion, Martin, 2001. "Is literacy shared within households? Theory and evidence for Bangladesh," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(6), pages 649-665, December.
  3. Basu, Kaushik & Foster, James E., 1998. "On measuring literacy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1997, The World Bank.
  4. Basu, Kaushik & Narayan, Ambar & Ravallion, Martin, 1999. "Is knowledge shared within households?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2261, The World Bank.
  5. Kaushik Basu & James E.Foster & S. Subramanian, 2000. "Isolated and Proximate Illiteracy And Why these Concepts Matter in Measuring Literacy and Designing Education Programmes," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0002, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  6. Maddox, Bryan, 2007. "Worlds Apart? Ethnographic Reflections on "Effective Literacy" and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 532-541, March.
  7. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
  8. Mitra, Tapan, 2002. "On Literacy Rankings," Working Papers 02-16, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  9. Dutta, Indranil, 2004. "Generalized measures of literacy," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 69-80, July.
  10. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975, March.
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