The Economic Benefits of Literacy: Evidence and Implications for Public Policy (2009)

This report provides an overview of how economists think about literacy, and what the available evidence suggests about the economic value of literacy.

Economic theory suggests that human capital, defined as what individuals know and can put to productive use, is an important driver of economic growth. Human capital is tightly linked with literacy, since reading proficiency determines one’s ability to learn as well as one’s ability to adapt to changes in organizations, and in the labour market.

There are large differences in the level and distribution of literacy skills within and between countries, the authors note. These differences matter to the individual, as higher levels of literacy skill are associated with more stable employment, higher wages, better health, increased educational achievement, and higher levels of social engagement.

These differences also matter to institutions and to society. The profile of literacy skills in a population influences the performance of schools, businesses, and communities.

Literacy also matters at the national level. Differences in average literacy levels explain more than 55 percent of differences in the long-term growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at both the national and provincial level. The proportion of adults with low literacy levels constrains long-term economic growth rates.

Since literacy challenges begin early in life, and are most effectively addressed at that time, it is thus critically important for Canada to foster literacy from an early age, the authors point out. A national strategy for early literacy is urgently needed to ensure future social and economic success for Canada as a nation.

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Added: 
2013-09-17
APA citation
T. Scott Murray and Mike McCracken. The Economic Benefits of Literacy: Evidence and Implications for Public Policy 2009. Web. 16 Jul. 2020 <http://en.copian.ca/library/research/murray/economic_benefit/economic_benefit.pdf>
T. Scott Murray & Mike McCracken (2009). The Economic Benefits of Literacy: Evidence and Implications for Public Policy. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from http://en.copian.ca/library/research/murray/economic_benefit/economic_benefit.pdf
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