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

  • Kaushik Basu

    ()

  • Travis Lee

    ()

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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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00355-008-0317-9
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Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Choice and Welfare.

Volume (Year): 32 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 181-196

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Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:32:y:2009:i:2:p:181-196
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  1. Lee, Travis, 2007. "Benchmarking the Effective Literacy Rate," Working Papers 07-13, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  2. Basu, Kaushik & Foster, James E., 1998. "On measuring literacy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1997, The World Bank.
  3. Dutta, Indranil, 2004. "Generalized measures of literacy," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 69-80, July.
  4. Mitra, Tapan, 2002. "On Literacy Rankings," Working Papers 02-16, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  5. 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.
  6. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
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