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Literacy, Skills and Welfare: Effects of Participation in Adult Literacy Programs

  • Niels-Hugo Blunch
  • Claus C Pörtner

This paper examines the effect of adult literacy program participation on household consumption in Ghana. The adult literacy programs in Ghana are of special interest since they are more comprehensive than standard literacy programs and incorporate many additional topics. We use community fixed effects combined with instrumental variables to account for possible endogenous program placement and self-selection into program participation. For households where none of the adults have completed any formal education we find a substantial, positive and statistically significant effect on household consumption. Our preferred estimate of the effect of participation for households without education is equivalent to a ten percent increase in consumption per adult equivalent. The effects of participation on welfare for other households are smaller and not statistically significant, and become smaller the more educated the household is. We find positive and statistically significant effects of participation on literacy and numeracy rates, although the increases are too small to be the only explanation for the welfare effects. There is also evidence that participants are more likely to engage in market activities and to sell a variety of agricultural goods. Taking account of both direct cost and opportunity cost we argue that the social returns to adult literacy programs are substantial.

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Paper provided by University of Washington, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number UWEC-2005-23-FC.

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Date of creation: Sep 2005
Date of revision: Aug 2009
Publication status: Forthcoming in Economic Development and Cultural Change
Handle: RePEc:udb:wpaper:uwec-2005-23-fc
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  1. 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 1016-30, December.
  2. Christian Dustmann & Francesca Fabbri, 2003. "Language proficiency and labour market performance of immigrants in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 695-717, 07.
  3. Barry R. Chiswick & Yew Liang Lee & Paul W. Miller, 2003. "Schooling, Literacy, Numeracy and Labour Market Success," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 79(245), pages 165-181, 06.
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  5. Daniel Ortega & Francisco Rodríguez, 2008. "Freed from Illiteracy? A Closer Look at Venezuela's Misión Robinson Literacy Campaign," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 1-30, October.
  6. Ishikawa, Mamoru & Ryan, Daniel, 2002. "Schooling, basic skills and economic outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 231-243, June.
  7. Ribar, David C., 2004. "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies," IZA Discussion Papers 998, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Mitra, Aparna, 2002. "Mathematics skill and male-female wages," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 443-456.
  9. John H. Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 1999. "Do the Cognitive Skills of School Dropouts Matter in the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 7101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1986. "Evaluating the Effects of Optimally Distributed Public Programs: ChildHealth and Family Planning Interventions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 470-82, June.
  12. Moll, Peter G, 1998. "Primary Schooling, Cognitive Skills and Wages in South Africa," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(258), pages 263-84, May.
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