Project 3.1 Causes and Dynamics of the Unequal Distribution of Skills among Adults

Project 3.1 Causes and Dynamics of the Unequal Distribution of Skills among Adults

Project Name: Project 3.1 Causes and Dynamics of the Unequal Distribution of Skills among Adults
Project Leader:
Andy Green
Other Project Team Members:
Francis Green, Nicola Pensiero
Project 3.1 Causes and Dynamics of the Unequal Distribution of Skills among Adults

Project Details

This project makes use of data from the Programme of International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to assess educational and other determinants of adult skills inequalities. These inequalities have been found to vary significantly across countries in an earlier survey of adult skills (the IALS study of the mid- 1990s which was administered in only 14 countries) and in a time series dataset of highest qualifications (the World Bank dataset developed by Thomas et al, 2000). The PIAAC data represent a considerable improvement as they use direct measurements of adult skills (unlike the dataset on qualifications) and were collected in a much wider range of countries than the IALS data. Moreover, the large national samples (5000 respondents) enable assessments by cohort. By comparing data for selected countries on skills distributions among 28-31 year olds in 2013 (from PIAAC) with data on distributions of skills amongst 15 year olds in 2000- 2003 (from PISA) we will be able to assess the durability of skills inequality and the effect that post-compulsory and adult learning have in increasing or mitigating such inequality. This could help to answer a key policy question about whether school-based or apprenticeship- based VET is more effective in reducing the unequal outcomes of compulsory schooling. The influence of other conditions thought to influence adult skills inequality – such as the levels and distributions of skills amongst migrants, and inter-cohort differences in skills levels resulting from over-time changes in education and training systems – will also be tested. The project has started in October 2012.

 

Research findings

Project publications:

Publications

Why are Literacy and Numeracy Skills in England so Unequal? Evidence from the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills and other International Surveys’ (LLAKES Research Paper 47).
Main findings:

• In England there is a larger gap in literacy and numeracy scores between the highest and lowest achievers than in most other countries.
• The high ranking on skills inequality is especially marked among those aged 25 to 29; for this group England’s high inequality is matched only by that of the United States.
• Countries with high levels of educational inequality tend to have high levels of skills inequality. Moreover, taking 10-year age groups from 25 up, we find that for each group educational inequality is among the highest in England. For example, among 45-54 year olds, only Spain and Northern Ireland are more unequal.
• The relationship between parental background and adult literacy and numeracy among those aged 16 to 24 is stronger in England than in all other countries except the Slovak Republic. England's extreme position holds, even after we control for different levels of educational achievement.

Green, A., Green, F. and Pensiero, N. (2015) ‘Cross-Country Variation in Adult Skills Inequality:Why Are Skill Levels and Opportunities So Unequal in Anglophone Countries?’ Comparative Education Review, vol. 59, no. 4.

Green, A. Pensiero, N. Franceschelli, M. and Henseke, G. (2017) Education and the Changing Structure of Opportunities for Young People in England, Journal of Asian Education Review.

Green, A. and Pensiero, N. (2016) ‘The Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training Systems on Skills Inequality. A Quasi-Cohort Analysis using PISA 2000 and the OECD Survey of Adult Skills.’ British Education Research Journal, 45, 2, pp. 756-779.

Presentations

Green, A. Paper on ‘The Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training on Literacy and Numeracy Skills Inequality,’ ​CIES, Vancouver, March 8th, 2016.

Green, A. Invited presentation on ‘Variations across Countries in Skills Inequality,’ International Symposium on ‘Education of Social Inequality.’ XV11 April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, Moscow, April 19-21st, 2016.

Green, A. Invited lecture on ‘The Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training Systems on Literacy and Numeracy Skills Inequality’ at CNESCO ‘Conférence de Comparaisons Internationales’ Lycée Diderot, Paris, 19-20th May, 2016.

Green, A.  Invited presentation on ‘The Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training on Literacy and Numeracy Skills Inequality’ at Conference on International Comparative (Adult) Education Research : Multidisciplinary and Cross-National Research,  Bonn, September 12th, 2016.

Green, A. Invited presentation on ‘The Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training Systems on Literacy and Numeracy Skills Levels and Distributions.’ Third International PIAAC Conference, Madrid, November 7-9th, 2016,

Green, A. Invited lecture on ‘The Contribution of Upper Secondary Education and Training to Skills Inequality,’ ​ATL/PESGB Seminar on Comparative Vocational Education and Training, London, 15.5.2015.

Green, A. Keynote lecture on ‘Inequalities in Adult Skills and Why Countries Vary so Much: The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’ for ASEM LLL Hub Conference, Bali. 10.3.2015.

Green, A. Paper presentation on ‘The Contribution of Upper Secondary Education and Training to Skills Inequality ’ ASEM LLL Hub Conference, Bali, 10.3.2015.

Green, A. Presentation on ‘Measuring the Effects of Upper Secondary Education and Training on Skills Inequality.’ LLAKES  Advisory Board.  4.12.2014.

Green, A. Presentation on ‘Adult Skills Inequality in English-Speaking Countries: The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’ LLAKES Workshop on PIAAC (with Nic Pensiero).
17.6.2014.

Green, A. Invited presentation on ‘Education, Skills and ‘Pre-Distributive’ Social Policy.’  Policy Network and FEPS Conference on ‘Pre-distributive Social Policy: Future Challenges in Welfare Societies’ St Catherine’s College, Oxford 30.6.2014.

Green, A. Invited lecture on ‘Adult Skills Inequality in English-Speaking Countries: The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’ Malta Review of Education Research Lecture. Malta. 28.5. 2014.

Green, A. Keynote lecture on ‘Why Are Adult Skills in England So Unequal? The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’ LLAKES conference, Royal Irish Academy, 22.6.2014.

Green, A. Presentation on ‘Education and Skills Inequalities in England: The Evidence from OECD Survey of Adult Skills and other International Surveys.’ AERA, April  2014.

Green, A. and Pensiero, N. Invited lecture on ‘Adult Skills Inequality in England and the US. The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’  George Washington University. 2.4.2014.

Green, A. and Green, F. Invited lecture on ‘Why Are Adult Skills in England So Unequal? The Evidence from SAS and other International Surveys.’ BIS. 25.2.2014.

Green, A. Invited presentation on ‘Skills Inequality, Adult Learning and Social Cohesion in the United Kingdom,’ ASEM LLL Hub Conference, Hamburg, 2.4.2013.

Academic and Policy Impact

The results from this research have been widely disseminated in the academic community globally. Andy Green and Nic Pensiero have given 18 invited presentations and keynotes on the research, including at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, The Royal Irish Academy, The German Institute for Adult Education (DIE), ASEM Lifelong Learning Hub conferences in Copenhagen, Glasgow and Bali, and at a CNESCO conference in Paris.

The results have been discussed with policy makers in several countries. An invited presentation to BIS was made (Andy Green and Francis Green) in 2014 and Andy Green presented evidence on skills inequality to the House of Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility in 2015. We had substantial involvement with the OECD team with the development of the PIAAC and have shared our results from this Project with them at the second and third of the OECD’s International PIAAC Conferences. Francis Green continues to be involved with the development of PIAAC survey questions. An invited presentation was also made to an ATL/PESGB meeting in 2015.

The main policy implications for England arising from our results is the importance of the upper secondary phase of education and training for reducing skills inequality and the need to achieve higher rates of completion in long-cycle programmes at this level which include sustained development of Maths and English language skills. We will want to discuss our findings with DFE policy-makers and develop further research to assess the effectiveness of new measures for raising leaving ages and making English and Maths a required part of further education courses.