Rethinking Age-heaping, a Cautionary Tale From Nineteenth Century Italy

Oct 2016 | 148

Authors: Brian A'Hearn Alexia Delfino, Alessandro Nuvolari


A swelling stream of literature employs age-heaping as an indicator of human capital, more specifically of numeracy. We re-examine this connection in light of evidence drawn from nineteenth century Italy: census data, death records, and direct, qualitative evidence on age-awareness and numeracy. Though it can stand in as an acceptable proxy for literacy, our findings suggest that age-heaping is most plausibly interpreted as a broad indicator of cultural and institutional modernisation rather than a measure of cognitive skills.

JEL Codes: N33, J24

Keywords: Age-Heaping, Numeracy, Human capital, Italy


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