Effective Investment in Women’s Futures: Schooling with Learning
preprintposted on 2022-09-15, 11:15 authored by Michelle Kaffenberger, Lant Pritchett
Women’s schooling has long been regarded as one of the best investments in development. Yet countries vary widely in the extent to which a year of schooling conveys useful skills and knowledge and hence schooling and education cannot be treated as synonyms. Using two different cross-nationally comparable data sets which contain measures of schooling, assessments of literacy, and life outcomes for more than 50 countries we show the association of women’s education, defined as schooling and the acquisition of literacy, with four life outcomes (fertility, child mortality, empowerment, and financial practices) is much larger than the standard estimates of the gains from schooling alone. In our preferred instrumental variables (IV) estimates, that correct for the attenuation bias induced by measurement error, the gain from education is more than three times larger than the standard OLS estimates of gains from schooling alone. While our results are not causal estimates, if anything like our results are true in the causal pathways whereby schooling and learning lead to improvements in women’s well-being this implies the estimates of the costs and benefits of expansions in grade attainment versus improving learning need to be adjusted accordingly.