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A new and easy-to-use measure of literacy, its axiomatic properties and an application

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  • Kaushik Basu

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  • Travis Lee

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Abstract

It can be argued that just as there are different kinds of literacy, there are different kinds of illiteracy. A 'proximate illiterate,' i.e. an illiterate who has easy access to a literate person, is clearly better off than someone without such access. The existing literature that takes account of these differences (1) defines an illiterate person to be a proximate illiterate if he or she lives in a household with at least one literate person and (2) derives new measures of literacy which typically exceed the standard literacy rate. The latter risks generating policy complacency. The aim of this paper is to suggest a measure of literacy that is not limited by (1) and (2). The measure is axiomatically characterized and its use is illustrated with a numerical exercise for the provinces of South Africa.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kaushik Basu & Travis Lee, 2009. "A new and easy-to-use measure of literacy, its axiomatic properties and an application," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 32(2), pages 181-196, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:32:y:2009:i:2:p:181-196 DOI: 10.1007/s00355-008-0317-9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Basu, Kaushik & Foster, James E, 1998. "On Measuring Literacy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(451), pages 1733-1749, November.
    2. Dutta, Indranil, 2004. "Generalized measures of literacy," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 69-80, July.
    3. Lee, Travis, 2008. "Benchmarking the effective literacy rate," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 233-239, September.
    4. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
    5. Mitra, Tapan, 2002. "On Literacy Rankings," Working Papers 02-16, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    6. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Esposito, Lucio & Kebede, Bereket & Maddox, Bryan, 2011. "Literacy Practices and Schooling: A Case Study from Mozambique," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 1796-1807.
    2. Iñaki Permanyer & Joan García & Albert Esteve, 2013. "The Impact of Educational Homogamy on Isolated Illiteracy Levels," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 2209-2225, December.
    3. Sreenivasan Subramanian, 2011. "Inter-group Disparities in the Distributional Analysis of Human Development: Concepts, Measurement, and Illustrative Applications," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, pages 27-52.
    4. Indranil Dutta & Laurence Roope & Horst Zank, 2011. "On Intertemporal Poverty: Affluence-Dependent Measures," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1112, Economics, The University of Manchester.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O20 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - General

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