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Functional literacy, educational attainment and earnings : a multi-country comparison

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Listed:
  • Kevin Denny
  • Colm Harmon
  • Vincent O'Sullivan

Abstract

In this paper a rich and innovative dataset, the International Adult Literacy Survey, is used to examine the impact of functional literacy on earnings. We show that the estimated return to formal education is sensitive to the inclusion of literacy: excluding it biases the return to education in many countries by significant amounts. Literacy itself has a well-determined effect on earnings in all countries though with considerable variation in the size of the effect. The benefits of literacy do not only arise from increasing low levels of literacy: increases at already high levels generate substantial increases in earnings in some countries. In general we find little interaction between schooling and literacy though for a few countries they appear to complement each other.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Denny & Colm Harmon & Vincent O'Sullivan, 2003. "Functional literacy, educational attainment and earnings : a multi-country comparison," Working Papers 200319, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:200319
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/939
    File Function: First version, 2003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1992. "Quantitative Literacy and the Likelihood of Employment among Young Adults in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(2), pages 313-328.
    6. Green, David A. & Craig Riddell, W., 2003. "Literacy and earnings: an investigation of the interaction of cognitive and unobserved skills in earnings generation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 165-184, April.
    7. Boissiere, M & Knight, J B & Sabot, R H, 1985. "Earnings, Schooling, Ability, and Cognitive Skills," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1016-1030, December.
    8. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1993. "Omitted-Ability Bias and the Increase in the Return to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 521-544, July.
    9. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
    10. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-266, May.
    11. Kevin Denny & Colm Harmon & Dorren McMahon & Sandra Redmond, 1999. "Literacy and Education in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 215-226.
    12. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1995. "Are OLS Estimates of the Return to Schooling Biased Downward? Another Look," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 217-230, May.
    13. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," NBER Working Papers 9732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Kevin Denny & Colm Harmon, 2001. "Testing for sheepskin effects in earnings equations: evidence for five countries," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(9), pages 635-637.
    15. Colm Harmon & Hessel Oosterbeek & Ian Walker, 2003. "The Returns to Education: Microeconomics," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 115-156, April.
    16. Denny, Kevin & Harmon, Colm & Lydon, Raemonn, 2002. "Cross Country Evidence on the Returns to Education: Patterns and Explanations," CEPR Discussion Papers 3199, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    2. Fasih, Tazeen & Kingdon, Geeta & Patrinos, Harry Anthony & Sakellariou, Chris & Soderbom, Mans, 2012. "Heterogeneous returns to education in the labor market," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6170, The World Bank.
    3. Kevin Denny & Orla Doyle, 2005. "Returns to basic skills in Central & Eastern Europe : a semi parametric approach," Working Papers 200507, School of Economics, University College Dublin.

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