, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 1551–1561

Maternal Reading Skills and Child Mortality in Nigeria: A Reassessment of Why Education Matters


DOI: 10.1007/s13524-013-0209-1

Cite this article as:
Smith-Greenaway, E. Demography (2013) 50: 1551. doi:10.1007/s13524-013-0209-1


Mother’s formal schooling—even at the primary level—is associated with lower risk of child mortality, although the reasons why remain unclear. This study examines whether mother’s reading skills help to explain the association in Nigeria. Using data from the Demographic and Health Survey, the analysis demonstrates that women’s reading skills increase linearly with years of primary school; however, many women with several years of formal school are unable to read at all. The results further show that mother’s reading skills help to explain the relationship between mother’s formal schooling and child mortality, and that mother’s reading skills are highly associated with child mortality. The study highlights the need for more data on literacy and for more research on whether and how mother’s reading skills lower child mortality in other contexts.


Maternal education Reading skills Child mortality Nigeria 

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology and DemographyPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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