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Should We Be Concerned about the Distribution of Literacy across Households? An Axiomatic Investigation


  • Valenti, Paola

    (Cornell U)


This paper proposes a class of literacymeasures that takes into account the externality generated by the presence of literates in the household. It is claimed that such externality is increasing in the number of literates in the household, has characteristics of rivalry in consumption, and therefore is a function of the distribution of literates and illiterates in the household. The measure is given a full axiomatic characterization, and it is shown that its use may reverse the ranking of geographical areas obtained by using other literacy measures.

Suggested Citation

  • Valenti, Paola, 2002. "Should We Be Concerned about the Distribution of Literacy across Households? An Axiomatic Investigation," Working Papers 02-15, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:corcae:02-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Atkinson, A B, 1987. "On the Measurement of Poverty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 749-764, July.
    2. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
    3. Basu, Kaushik & Foster, James E, 1998. "On Measuring Literacy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(451), pages 1733-1749, November.
    4. Duncan Thomas & John Strauss & Maria-Helena Henriques, 1991. "How Does Mother's Education Affect Child Height?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 183-211.
    5. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
    6. Mitra, Tapan, 2002. "On Literacy Rankings," Working Papers 02-16, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    7. Sen, Amartya K, 1976. "Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(2), pages 219-231, March.
    8. Clark, Stephen & Hemming, Richard & Ulph, David, 1981. "On Indices for the Measurement of Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(362), pages 515-526, June.
    9. Foster, James E, 1994. "Normative Measurement: Is Theory Relevant?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 365-370, May.
    10. Basu, Kaushik & Narayan, Ambar & Ravallion, Martin, 1999. "Is knowledge shared within households?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2261, The World Bank.
    11. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maddox, Bryan, 2007. "Worlds Apart? Ethnographic Reflections on "Effective Literacy" and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 532-541, March.
    2. 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, vol. 38(1), pages 27-52, March.
    3. Nolen, Patrick, 2013. "Unemployment and household values: Distribution sensitive measures of unemployment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 354-362.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • R20 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - General


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