Do Literacy Skills Influence Young Adults’ Health in Rural Africa?: Evidence from Malawi

Emily Smith-Greenaway, Pennsylvania State University

The association between education and health across the life course is well known: individuals with more formal schooling are healthier and live longer. There is a large body of research exploring why this is the case. In this paper, I examine one whether and how one set of educational skills – literacy – are associated with adults' health in a rural village in Malawi, a southeast African country. I employ a new longitudinal study (Tsogolo la Thanzi) of young adults to test for associations between literacy skills and general health and prolonged sickness, and to evaluate whether comprehension of health information explains the observed associations. I find that literacy skills are strongly associated with health net of formal school background and other sociodemographic controls. The powerful impact of literacy skills on young adults’ health highlights the need to incorporate literacy skills into research on the education-health gradient.

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Presented in Session 107: Cognition over the Life Course