Niels-Hugo Blunch

Washington and Lee University, USA, and IZA, Germany

Adult literacy programs in developing countries have received only little to no attention in recent years, largely due to their modest effects on reading, writing, and numeracy skills of participants. Yet, there is now at least some evidence that there have been effects on other important development goals, such as labor market status (including increased labor market participation), income, and health (including child mortality and teenage pregnancy). Hence, adult literacy programs should be of interest to policymakers--in the developing world more generally, as for national governments and bi- and multilateral development organizations. Given the explicit focus on policy-relevant research and on reaching policymakers directly though the innovative IZA World of Labor article format, I saw this as a great opportunity to bring this message out to where it makes the most good: namely directly to policymakers

IZA World of Labor role


Current position

Associate Professor of Economics, Washington and Lee University, USA

Research interest

Labor economics, health economics, development economics, population and household economics, economics of transition, program evaluation

Positions/functions as a policy advisor

Consultant, World Bank, Washington DC (1997–2006); Consultant, United Nations, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2001–2002)

Past positions

Visiting Research Scholar, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne (2016); Assistant Professor of Economics, Washington and Lee University (2006–2012); Visiting Researcher (“Departmental Guest”), Department of Economics, Princeton University (2010)


PhD Economics, The George Washington University, USA, 2006

Selected publications

  • "A teenager in love: Multidimensional human capital and teenage pregnancy in Ghana." The Journal of Development Studies (Forthcoming).

  • “The winner takes it all: Internal migration, education and wages in Ethiopia.” Migration Studies 3:3 (2015): 417–437 (with C. Ruggeri Laderchi).

  • “Literacy and numeracy skills and education sector reform: Evidence from Ghana". Education Economics 22:2 (2014): 209–235.

  • ”Staying alive: Adult literacy programs and child mortality in rural Ghana." World Development 42:1 (2013): 114–126.

  • “Literacy, skills and welfare: Effects of participation in adult literacy programs.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 60:1 (2011): 17–66 (with C. Pörtner).