A major factor in the transformation of China from one of the world’s poorest nations to a rapidly industrializing nation with an unprecedented rate of per capita economic growth over the past 25 years has been the increasing literacy of the population. In a simple literacy test administered to a national sample of the Chinese population in 1996 (details are given below), the average number of characters correctly identified out of 10 ranged from just over two for those born in 1927 (and hence age 69 in 1996) to just over five for those born in 1976 (and hence age 20 in 1996). In China, gains in literacy are strongly linked to gains in years of schooling (see Figure 8.1). Thus, the

Figure 8.1 Number of characters identified by year of birth and number of characters identified predicted from the mean years of schooling of each cohort, Chinese adults, age 20-69 in 1996.