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The roles of childhood circumstances and schooling on adult reading skills in low- and middle-income countries

Abstract

The article investigates the roles of childhood circumstances (including parental socio-economic status, parental education, parental engagement, and sibling composition) and schooling on adult reading skills in low- and middle-income countries. Using regression models and data from surveys of urban labor-force participants in Armenia, Bolivia, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana, Kenya, Ukraine, and Vietnam, the study reaches several conclusions. First, childhood circumstances predict adult reading skills in all eight countries. Second, among the childhood circumstances variables, parental education is the most frequent predictor of adult reading skills. Third, schooling is at least as important as the childhood circumstances variables in explaining adult reading skills. Finally, an extra year of schooling is associated with larger gains in adult reading skills in the relatively lower income countries.

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Correspondence to M. Najeeb Shafiq.

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We are very grateful to an anonymous referee and to Prospects Executive Editor, Simona Popa. We also thank Luis Benveniste, Christian Bodewig, Marc DeFrancis, Deon Filmer, Sean Kelly, Juan Manuel Moreno, David Newhouse, Harry Patrinos, Sebastian Taborda, Namrata Tognatta, Halsey Rogers for helpful comments and discussions. We acknowledge Marc DeFrancis for editorial assistance and Ji Liu for research assistance. The World Bank financially supported this study. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this study are entirely those of the authors.

The original data are freely downloadable from the World Bank’s STEP Skills and Measurement Program website (http://microdata.worldbank.org/index.php/catalog/step). The authors are happy to share the data and code with bona fide researchers. Please email the authors for access to the data and code.

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Shafiq, M.N., Valerio, A. The roles of childhood circumstances and schooling on adult reading skills in low- and middle-income countries. Prospects (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-021-09541-1

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Keywords

  • Childhood
  • Social mobility
  • Adult literacy
  • Cognitive skills
  • Reading proficiency