Pritchett, Lant, and Justin Sandefur. "Girls’ Schooling and Women’s Literacy: Schooling Targets Alone Won’t Reach Learning Goals." February 2017.

Abstract

Using the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data on the ability of women at various levels of schooling attainment on the ability of women at various levels of schooling attainment to read a simple sentence, we show that reaching universal completion of grade six among girls would not bring the world anywhere close to the goal of universal female literacy. These calculations are based on the empirical relationship between grades completed and ability to read, a descriptive ‘learning profile.’ The large literature on schooling and life outcomes suggests simple correlations are a reasonable guide to causal effects, and the typical concern is over-estimation of the true return to schooling—implying our calculations using a descriptive and not causal learning profile are a best-case scenario.