Mapping of Literacy

The work for this project will provide maps of adults' "literacy as a determinant of health" at a local level for each of the provinces and territories in Canada and for several of its largest cities. The data for the project would come from the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (IALLS) conducted by Statistics Canada and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development[1], and the 2001 Canadian Census. The project will use a mapping technique developed by Willms and his colleagues at the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy over the past four years (Willms & Chan, 2005).

The CRISP mapping technique estimates a score on an outcome variable for all Canadian citizens, based on the best available information for each individual, and then displays the resulting scores on provincial and local area maps. The approach uses the 2001 Canadian census data to create a file for each province that includes a "pseudo-record" for every individual in the province, based on the distribution of people by gender and age in each Dissemination-Area (DA). An estimate of a person's outcome (in this case their literacy score) for all people in the pseudo-record file is estimated with a multilevel multiple regression technique that uses the following data: (a) information at the individual level from a Statistics Canada survey (in this case the IALLS) about how well other people of the same age and gender scored in the person's DA, and in other DAs in their local area (out to three levels of contiguity), and (b) information at the DA-level on the average outcome scores and the demographic characteristics of all DAs in the country. For each estimate we add an error term based on the regression results of the multilevel model. We then aggregate the results to the DA level, and use these results for mapping. Although the estimates for any one individual are of course not very accurate, the estimates are quite accurate when aggregated to the DA level, or to higher levels of aggregation.

[1]Statistics Canada and OECD (2005). Learning a Living: First Results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Ottawa and Paris: authors.


St. Francis Xavier University, operating as The National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

Research Team

  • Doug Willms
  • Richard Chan
  • Teresa Tang
  • Beth Fairbairn