Do children in India benefit from having mothers who are literate?
This paper quantifies the benefits that accrue to children from having mothers who are literate. It does so by measuring the influence of literacy, after controiling for other factors,on the following indicators of child welfare: male and female infant deaths; male and female child deaths; male and female child school enrolments; male and female child school continuations. For each of these indicators of child welfare, the paper specifies and estimates econometric equations and then uses these estimates to carry out a number of policy related simulations. An over-arching theme of the paper is the effect of literacy of mothers (and fathers) on gender disparities between children. The econometric estimates are based on unit record data from a survey of 33,000 rural households carried out by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). The simulations explore the effects of two different sets of policies aimed at raising the welfare of children. The first set of policies targets adult illiteracy and, in particular, the illiteracy of mothers. These policies attempt to release the positive externalities, embodied in the literacy of mothers, to children. The second set of policies targets infrastructure. These policies attempt to raise child welfare through improvements in the provision of schools and hospitals. The fact that the econometric specifications incorporate household level variables and also variables relating to infrastructure provision means that the relative importance of the two sets of policies can be evaluated.
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