Math Skills and Market and Non-market Outcomes: Evidence From an Amazonian Society

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Paper Abstract: 
Research in industrial nations suggests that formal math skills are associated with improvements in market and non-market outcomes. But do these associations also hold in a highly autarkic setting with a limited formal labor market? We examined this question using observational annual panel data (2008 and 2009) from 1,121 adults in a native Amazonian society of forager-farmers in Bolivia (Tsimane’). Formal math skills were associated with an increase in wealth in durable market goods and in total wealth between data collection rounds, and with improved indicators of own reported mental health and child health. These associations did not vary significantly by people’s Spanish skills or proximity to town. We conclude that the positive association between math skills and market and non-market outcomes extends beyond industrial nations to even highly autarkic settings.