Learning for well being Studies using the International Adult Literacy Survey

University dissertation from Stockholm : avdelningen för internationell och jämförande pedagogik

Abstract: This thesis is a collection of five independent but closely related studies. The overall purpose is to approach the analysis of learning outcomes from a perspective that combines three major elements, namely lifelonglifewide learning, human capital, and the benefits of learning. The approach is based on an interdisciplinary perspective of the human capital paradigm. It considers the multiple learning contexts that are responsible for the development of embodied potential – including formal, nonformal and informal learning – and the multiple outcomes – including knowledge, skills, economic, social and others– that result from learning. The studies also seek to examine the extent and relative influence of learning in different contexts on the formation of embodied potential and how in turn that affects economic and social well being. The first study combines the three major elements, lifelonglifewidelearning, human capital, and the benefits of learning into one common conceptual framework. This study forms a common basis for the four empirical studies that follow. All four empirical studies use data from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) to investigate the relationships among the major elements of the conceptual framework presented in the first study.Study I. A conceptual framework for the analysis of learning outcomesThis study brings together some key concepts and theories that are relevant for the analysis of learning outcomes. Many of the concepts and theories have emerged from varied disciplines including economics, educational psychology, cognitive science and sociology, to name only a few. Accordingly, some of the research questions inherent in the framework relate to different disciplinary perspectives. The primary purpose is to create a common basis for formulating and testing hypotheses as well as to interpret the findings in the empirical studies that follow. In particular, the framework facilitates the process of theorizing and hypothesizing on the relationships and processes concerning lifelong learning as well as their antecedents and consequences.Study II. Determinants of literacy proficiency: A lifelong-lifewide learning perspectiveThis study investigates lifelong and lifewide processes of skill formation. In particular, it seeks to estimate the substitutability and complementarity effects of learning in multiple settings over the lifespan on literacy skill formation. This is done by investigating the predictive capacity of major determinants of literacy proficiency that are associated with a variety of learning contexts including school, home, work, community and leisure. An identical structural model based on previous research is fitted to the IALS data for 18 countries. The results show that even after accounting for all factors, education remains the most important predictor of literacy proficiency. In all countries, however, the total effect of education is significantly mediated through further learning occurring at work, at home and in the community. Therefore, the job and other literacy related factors complement education in predicting literacy proficiency. This result points to a virtual cycle of lifelong learning, particularly to how educational attainment influences other learning behaviours throughout life. In addition, results show that home background as measured by parents’ education is also a strong predictor of literacy proficiency, but in many countries this occurs only if a favourable home background is complemented with some post-secondary education.Study III. The effect of literacy proficiency on earnings: An aggregated occupational approach using the Canadian IALS dataThis study uses data from the Canadian Adult Literacy Survey to estimate the earnings return to literacy skills. The approach adapts a labour segmented view of the labour market by aggregating occupations into seven types, enabling the estimation of the variable impact of literacy proficiency on earnings, both within and between different types of occupations. This is done using Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM). The method used to construct the aggregated occupational classification is based on analysis that considers the role of cognitive and other skills in relation to the nature of occupational tasks. Substantial premiums are found to be associated with some occupational types even after adjusting for within occupational differences in individual characteristics such as schooling, literacy proficiency, labour force experience and gender. Average years of schooling and average levels of literacy proficiency at the between level account for over two-thirds of the premiums. Within occupations, there are significant returns to schooling but they vary depending on the type of occupations. In contrast, the within occupational return of literacy proficiency is not necessarily significant. The latter depends on the type of occupation.Study IV: Determinants of economic and social outcomes from a lifewide learning perspective in CanadaIn this study the relationship between learning in different contexts, which span the lifewide learning dimension, and individual earnings on the one hand and community participation on the other are examined in separate but comparable models. Data from the Canadian Adult Literacy Survey are used to estimate structural models, which correspond closely to the common conceptual framework outlined in Study I. The findings suggest that the relationship between formal education and economic and social outcomes is complex with confounding effects. The results indicate that learning occurring in different contexts and for different reasons leads to different kinds of benefits. The latter finding suggests a potential trade-off between realizing economic and social benefits through learning that are taken for either job-related or personal-interest related reasons.Study V: The effects of learning on economic and social well being: A comparative analysisUsing the same structural model as in Study IV, hypotheses are comparatively examined using the International Adult Literacy Survey data for Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The main finding from Study IV is confirmed for an additional five countries, namely that the effect of initial schooling on well being is more complex than a direct one and it is significantly mediated by subsequent learning. Additionally, findings suggest that people who devote more time to learning for job-related reasons than learning for personal-interest related reasons experience higher levels of economic well being. Moreover, devoting too much time to learning for personal-interest related reasons has a negative effect on earnings except in Denmark. But the more time people devote to learning for personal-interest related reasons tends to contribute to higher levels of social well being. These results again suggest a trade-off in learning for different reasons and in different contexts.