Measuring Skills in Developing Countries

Resource Type
Dataset : survey data
  • Laajaj, Rachid (Universidad de los Andes)
  • Macours, Karen (Paris School of Economics)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • World Bank and Standing Panel for Impact Assessment
    • Award Number: SIAC 1
  • DFID-ESRC Growth Research Program
    • Award Number: JES-1362222
  • French National Research Agency (ANR)
    • Award Number: ANR-17-EURE-0001
  • INRA
Free Keywords
Economics; skills; developing country; agriculture
  • Abstract

    Measures of cognitive, noncognitive, and technical skills are increasingly used to analyze the determinants of skill formation or the role of skills in economic decisions in developing and developed countries. Yet in most cases, these measures have only been validated in high-income countries. This paper tests the reliability and validity of some of the most commonly used skills measures in a rural developing context. A survey experiment with a series of skills measurements was administered to more than 900 farmers in western Kenya, and the same questions were asked again after three weeks to test the reliability of the measures. To test predictive power, the study also collected information on agricultural practices and production during the four following seasons. The results show the cognitive skills measures are reliable and internally consistent, while technical skills are difficult to capture and very noisy. The evidence further suggests that measurement error in noncognitive skills is non-classical, as correlations between questions are driven in part by the answering patterns of the respondents and the phrasing of the questions. Addressing both random and systematic measurement error using common psychometric practices and repeated measures leads to improvements and clearer predictions, but does not address all concerns. We replicate the main parts of the analysis for farmers in Colombia, and obtain similar results. The paper provides a cautionary tale for naïve interpretations of skill measures. It also points to the importance of addressing measurement challenges to establish the relationship of different skills with economic outcomes. Based on these findings, the paper derives guidelines for skill measurement and interpretation in similar contexts.
Temporal Coverage
  • 2012-01-01 / 2015-12-31
    Time Period: Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2012--Thu Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2015 (Year 2012 to 2015)
  • 2012-01-01 / 2015-12-31
    Collection Date(s): Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2012--Thu Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2015 (Year 2012 to 2015)
Geographic Coverage
  • Kenya, Siaya
Sampled Universe
Households in rural areas in Siaya, Western Kenya. Mix of randomly selected representativ households and households selected by the community to participate in the agronomic trials.
Households in Sucre, Colombia

This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
  • Is version of
    DOI: 10.3886/E124141
  • Laajaj, Rachid, and Karen Macours. “Measuring Skills in Developing Countries.” Journal of Human Resources, n.d.

Update Metadata: 2021-02-15 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2021-02-15