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Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital

Author(s): Brian A'Hearn, Jrg Baten and Dorothee Crayen

Publication Date: April 2009

Keyword(s): Age Heaping, Europe, Human Capital, Literacy and Long-term Growth

Programme Area(s): International Macroeconomics

Abstract: Age data frequently display excess frequencies at attractive numbers, such as multiples of five. We use this "age heaping" to measure cognitive ability in quantitative reasoning, or "numeracy". We construct a database of age heaping estimates with exceptional geographic and temporal coverage, and demonstrate a robust correlation of literacy and numeracy, where both can be observed. Extending the temporal and geographic range of our knowledge of human capital, we show that Western Europe had already diverged from the East and reached high numeracy levels by 1600, long before the rise of mass schooling or the onset of industrialization.

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Bibliographic Reference

A'Hearn, B, Baten, J and Crayen, D. 2009. 'Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research. https://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=7277