Below, view the list of AIR-PIAAC commissioned papers.  The AIR PIAAC commissioned papers, funded through a contract with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education, are intended to broaden the base of research through exploration and use of the PIAAC dataset and its analytical tools. 

Table of Contents

2017 Research Papers
2016 Research Papers
2015 Research Papers
2014 Research Papers
2013 Research Papers


2017 Research Papers

Writing Behaviors Relation to Literacy and Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments (Iris Feinberg, Amani Talwar, Elizabeth Tighe, and Daphne Greenberg, The Adult Literacy Research Center at Georgia State University)
This paper will use PIAAC 2012/2014 data to study relations among the PIAAC literacy domain, the problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE) domain, reading behaviors, and various demographic characteristics (e.g., age, educational attainment, race, gender, and native language status) to adults’ writing behaviors at home and at work.  Specifically the researchers will address the following questions:

  1. What are the relations among the writing behaviors indices at home/at work and the reading behaviors indices at home/at work? Do these relations vary by demographic characteristics (age, educational attainment, race, gender, or native language status) and reading behaviors?
  2. Are PIAAC LIT and PSTRE skills jointly and uniquely predictive of writing behaviors indices at home and/or at work?  Do different demographic characteristics (age, educational attainment, race, gender, or native language status) and/or reading behavior indices at home/at work moderate the relations of LIT and PSTRE levels on writing behaviors at home and/or at work?
  3. What are the relations among functional daily reading behaviors at home/at work (reading directions, letters/emails, newspapers/magazines, books) and functional daily writing behaviors at home/at work (writing letters/emails, filling out forms)? Do these relations vary by demographic characteristics (literacy level, age, educational attainment, race, gender, or native language status)?

Revisiting the Determinants of Literacy Proficiency: A Lifelong-lifewide Learning Perspective (Richard Desjardins and Gina Cobin, University of California Los Angeles)
This paper will use PIAAC data to examine the determinants of literacy proficiency. Specifically, the authors aim to further examine the underlying structure of the determinants from a lifecycle perspective and the trends in this structure at both the micro and macro levels for countries that participated in both the PIAAC and IALS studies. The authors will address the following questions:

  1. To what extent has literacy proficiency changed since the 1990s and how does this relate to the growth of qualifications and knowledge economies as well as immigration in different countries? 
  2. What is the underlying structure of adult literacy from a lifecycle theory perspective? What indicators and pathways to adult literacy proficiency emerge from analysis of data from both the PIAAC and IALS studies?
  3.  What are the kinds of policy relevant insights that can be yielded from analyses of PIAAC type trend data regarding the determinants of adult literacy proficiency across specific contexts and across countries?

Collaboration at Work and PIAAC Skills (Joshua Collins, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Jill Zarestky, Colorado State University; Tobin Lopes, Colorado State University; and Ellen Scully-Russ, George Washington University)
This paper is focused on studying the relationship between level of collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing at work and respondents’ skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Specifically authors will address the following questions:

  1. How does the relationship between collaboration and information sharing and literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE skill levels differ by gender, education, and industry sector?
  2. How does the relationship between collaboration and information sharing and adults’ use of specified skills differ by gender, education, and industry sector? 
  3. How is collaboration and information sharing related to U.S. adults’ participation in learning activities (e.g., open/distance education, on-the-job training, seminars/workshops, private lessons)?

What If A College Major Isn’t Enough?: The Relationship Between Measures Of Literacy And Numeracy Skills, College Graduates' Majors And Earnings (Karly Ford and  Junghee Choi, Pennsylvania State University)
This paper will use combined 2012/14 U.S. PIAAC data to study whether literacy and numeracy skills mediate the relationship between college majors and earnings. The proposed analysis would explore the role individual skill plays in the relationship between academic major and labor market earnings for college graduates.  The working sample includes only 4-year college graduates, between the ages 25 and 65. In order to observe only those with strong labor market commitments, the sample is limited to those who work full-time; those who reported working at least 30 hours a week. 


Using Log Files to Identify Sequential Patterns in the PIAAC Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environment by U.S. Adults’ Employment Status (Dandan Liao, University of Maryland; Qiwei He, Educational Testing Service; and Hong Jiao, University of Maryland)
This paper will use PIAAC 2012 process data collected in log files and existing data from the PIAAC survey, to identify malleable factors from employment-related background variables associated with problem-solving skills that can be of use in improving these competences in US adult education. In particular, the author will address the following three questions:

  1. What features can we extract from process data by subgroups with different employment status?
  2.  Clustering participants based on features extracted from process data, what do participants in each cluster have in common regarding employment-related variables? In other words, what are the characteristics of the clusters with respect to employment?
  3. Are the significant employment-related variables found from the first two research questions consistent across items?

Intergenerational Social Mobility in the United States (Sara Oloomi)
This paper will use PIAAC 2012/2014 United States data to study the impact of parental education on their children’s outcomes, including differences by sociodemographic characteristics and a specific look at the impact within STEM fields. The author will address the following questions:

  1. Is parental education associated with outcomes of their children, including education, employment status, occupational skill classification, earning, and cognitive skills (literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving scores) in the U.S.? 
    1. 1 Do the relationships between parental education and outcomes of children vary across different segments of the population including racial/ethnic and gender groups in the U.S.? 
  2. What are the ranges of relative and absolute upward mobility in education, employment status, occupational skill classification, earning, and cognitive skills (literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving scores) in the U.S.? 
  3. Is parental education associated with propensity to study/work in STEM? 

3.1 To what extent parental education is associated with the gender gap in study/work in STEM? Is the gender gap lower among children with high parental education compared to children with low parental education?

3.2 Do the relationships between parental education and propensity to study/work in STEM as well as gender gap in STEM vary across different racial/ethnic groups?  


Adults’ Civic Engagement in Germany and the US: Evidence from the PIAAC Survey (Amy D. Rose, Northern Illinois University; Jill Zarestky, Colorado State University; Tobin Lopes, Colorado State University; Marion Fleige, German Institute for Adult Education (DIE); M Cecil Smith, West Virginia University; Thomas J. Smith, Northern Illinois University; and Jovita M. Ross-Gordon, Texas State University)
This paper will examine the broad construct of civic engagement, comparing native born and non-native born individuals in the US and Germany.  Specifically, the authors will examine how several variables, including gender, years worked, work status, education, and age, predict outcomes related to civic engagement, including adults’ volunteer work activities, political efficacy, and social trust in the U.S. and Germany and how relationships these differ between the two countries by exploring the following questions:

  1. Among persons in Germany and the U.S., do skill proficiency, gender, years worked, work status, education, age, and immigration status predict specific aspects of civic engagement (i.e. volunteer work for non-profit organizations, political efficacy, and dimensions of social trust)? 
  2. Do the effects of skill proficiency, gender, years worked, work status, education, age, and immigration status predict specific aspects of civic engagement ((i.e. volunteer work for non-profit organizations, political efficacy, and dimensions of social trust) and do these differ between individuals in Germany and in the U.S.?
  3. What are the moderating effects of immigration status on the relationships between (1) skill proficiency gender, years worked, work status, education, and (2) specific aspects of civic engagement (volunteer work for non-profit organizations, political efficacy, and dimensions of social trust), and do any moderating effects differ between Germany and the U.S.?

The Changing Impact of Literacy Skill on Key Indicators of Macro-economic Performance in OECD Countries (Serge Coulombe, The University of Ottawa and Scott Murray, DataAngel Policy Research)

The authors will study the impact that changes in the average level of literacy skill and in the distribution of literacy skill have had on key indicators of macroeconomic performance including the rates of GDP growth and labor productivity growth in OECD economies using data from the 2003 ALL and the 2011 OECD PIAAC adult skills survey. The goal will be to highlight how these impacts have changed and to estimate the magnitude of lost output associated with skill loss. This latter analysis will shed light on the potential benefits of policy measures that would increase the demand for literacy skill enough to reduce skill loss to zero.


What Demographic and Skill-level Factors Predict the Desire to Enroll in a Postsecondary Education Class or Program Among People in Prison in the U.S.? (Ruth Delaney, Margaret diZerega, Lionel Smith, and Heather Erwin, Vera Institute of Justice) 
This paper will use 2014 PIAAC prison data to study demographic and skill-level factors that predict the desire to enroll in a postsecondary program among incarcerated adults detained in the U.S federal and state prisons.  The authors will study the following question:

  1. What demographic and skill-level factors impact which incarcerated adults want to enroll in a pre-associate education program or higher in comparison to their peers who do not want to enroll in any academic class or program of study?


Using the U.S. PIAAC Prison Data to Examine the Relationship between Cognitive Skills and Correctional Education Programs (Jinghong Cai, Anirudh V.S. Ruhil, and Dianne Gut, Ohio University)
This paper will use 2014 PIAAC prison data to study the association between literacy/numeracy and correctional education as it relates to program type, ways of course offerings, and job/education history prior to incarceration. Specifically, the author will examine the relationship between participation in correctional education programs while incarcerated and literacy/numeracy skills addressing the following research questions: 

  1. What are the characteristics of participants in different types of correctional education programs in terms of gender, race, age, parents’ immigration background, completed education level, and history of incarceration?
  2. To what extent is attending/not attending a correctional education program associated with the variation in levels of literacy and numeracy? What is the relationship between the time spent in correctional education programs and the level of literacy/numeracy?
  3. What is the distribution of learning via different ways of courses offering (i.e., offered in jail or correctional facility versus others such as offered by college/university through distance education) across academic programs (e.g., GED and degree programs)? What is the relationship between ways of course offering and the literacy/numeracy of participants?
  4.  What are the reported reasons for attending or not attending correctional education programs across different programs based on history of incarceration? Are there any commonalities among the reasons expressed by low and high literacy/numeracy groups for participating or not participating in correctional education programs? 

The Influence of Correctional Education, Skills, and Lifelong Learning on Social Outcomes  (Roofia Galeshi and Riane Bolin, Radford University)
This paper will use the 2014 PIAAC prison data to study whether numeracy and literacy skills along with inmate educational and vocational training have an impact on social outcomes. Specifically, they will address the following questions: 

  1. How does literacy, numeracy, formal education, and vocational training affect prison inmates’ social outcomes such as civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and health? 
  2. How does the relationship between literacy, numeracy, formal education, and vocational training and social outcomes compare in the two populations—prison and household?

Factors That Influence the Educational Attainment, Employment, Economic Mobility, and Successful Reentry of Incarcerated Parents (Daniel M. Leeds, Juliana Pearson, and Leslie Scott, CNA Education)
This paper will use 2014 PIAAC prison data to study factors that influence the educational attainment, employment, economic mobility, and successful reentry of the justice-involved parents.  Specifically, they will answer the following questions:

  1. What percent of the incarcerated population has one or more dependent children?
  2. Does the highest level of education for incarcerated parents with dependent children vary by literacy and numeracy skill levels (level 2 and below, level 3, and level 4/5)?
  3. What percent of incarcerated parents with dependent children were employed prior to incarceration? How do employment rates differ for incarcerated parents of varying literacy and numeracy skill levels (level 2 and below, level 3, and level 4/5)?
  4. What percent of incarcerated parents with dependent children were unemployed prior to incarceration? How do unemployment rates differ for incarcerated parents of varying literacy and numeracy skill levels (level 2 and below, level 3, and level 4/5)?
  5. For what percent of potential working years (equal to age minus [imputed] years of schooling minus six) were incarcerated parents with dependent children employed?  Does this differ systematically for incarcerated individuals without dependent children?
  6. Do income sources vary for incarcerated parents with dependent children by literacy and numeracy skill levels (level 2 and below, level 3, and level 4/5)?
  7. To what extent are the literacy and numeracy skills of incarcerated parents with dependent children influenced by the educational attainment of their parents?
  8. What percent of incarcerated parents with dependent children have expressed an interest in pursuing education and training while in prison? How does this compare with incarcerated individuals without dependent children?
  9. Are incarcerated parents with dependent children more likely than incarcerated individuals without dependent children to participate in education and training while in prison? What are the motivating factors?

2016 Research Papers

Numeracy Skills, Health Information-Seeking, and Preventative Health Behaviors among Middle to Older Aged Adults in the U.S. (Takashi Yamashita, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Anthony R. Bardo, Duke University; and Darren Liu, Des Moines University)

This paper will analyze numeracy skills in the context of health information-seeking and preventative health behaviors to develop a detailed demographic and socioeconomic profile of middle to older aged adults (aged 45 to 74 years) and their numeracy skills using PIAAC data.  Using statistical models to estimate the impacts of numeracy skills on selected health information-seeking and preventative health behaviors, the authors will answer the following research questions:

  • Are there differences in numeracy skills across subgroups of middle to older aged adults by demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics?
  • Are numeracy skills associated with the sources from which middle to older aged adults seek health information?
  • Are numeracy skills among middle to older aged adults associated with their adherence to recommended preventative health behaviors?

Explaining Relationships between Numeracy Skills, Soft Skills, and Occupational Status among U.S. Workers (Huacong Liu and Frank Fernandez, Pennsylvania State University)

This paper will use PIAAC data to  examine relationships between numeracy skills, soft skills and  occupational status among adults working in the United States. In the research literature, soft skills have also been called noncognitive skills, personality traits, socialization, and social skills. They are often contrasted with technical skills, which are necessary but not sufficient for workers who wish to move beyond entry-level jobs or who aspire to enter professional fields.  The authors will use measures of soft skills available in this dataset across following four elements: Readiness to Learn, Planning, Influence, and Task Discretion. The authors will answer the question:

  • After controlling for cognitive ability as measured by PIAAC numeracy skills, are soft skills significantly correlated with workers’ occupational status?

Associations between Adults' Numeracy Skills and Employment Status (Leah Katherine Saal, Loyola University Maryland; Melissa Gholson, West Virginia Department of Education; Ryan J. Machtmes, University of Minnesota; and Krisanna I. Machtmes, Ohio University)

This paper will explore the relationship between academic skills/proficiencies and employment status in the United States. Using PIAAC data,  the authors will answer the following questions:

  • Is the relationship between numeracy skills and employment status stronger than the relationship between the other skills measured in PIAAC (literacy and problem solving in technology-rich environments) among U.S. adults? 
  • Is there a relationship between numeracy and employment status by the levels of numeracy-related skills used in everyday life?

Numeracy, Occupational Skills, and Gender: Using PIAAC and O*NET to Assess Gender Pay Gaps and Occupational Gender Segregation (Lisa M. Frehill and Katie Seely-Gant, Energetics Technology Center)

This paper will use data from PIAAC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics O*NET database to examine the relationship between numeracy skills, gendered wage gaps, and occupational gender segregation. The following research questions will be addressed:

  • To what extent are numeracy skills associated with occupational gender segregation and, subsequently, the gender pay gap?
  • To what extent are there correlations between assessed numeracy skills (PIAAC), numeracy requirements (O*NET), and female representation?
  • What are the returns to income associated with these different measures of skills (i.e., PIAAC and O*NET) and the level of female representation in occupations?

An Examination of PIAAC Data for Unemployed Adults aged 45 to 74 (Phyllis A. Cummins, Miami University; Takashi Yamashita, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Anabelle Arbogast, Miami University)

This paper will focus on middle to older age groups (ages 45 to 74) who are either unemployed or not in the labor force (in comparison to those who are employed). The authors will examine their characteristics to gain a better understanding of health and economic well-being in relation to educational attainment, continuous learning behaviors (a.k.a. lifelong learning), and skill indicators including literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills in the second half of life course, with additional consideration given to the roles skills and technology play in the context of employment status. The following research questions will be addressed:

  • Is there any relationship between health status, education, lifelong learning behaviors, and skill indicators including literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills by employment status?
  • Is there any relationship between the timing of retirement, health status, education, lifelong learning behaviors, and skill indicators including literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills?
  • Is there any difference in use of practical skills including communication technology, computer application, and reading/writing skills among individuals who are employed, unemployed, and not in the labor force?
  • How frequently do unemployed and not in the labor force adults participate in Adult Education and Training (AET) programs and what are the reasons for non-participation?

View full research paper ›

2015 Research Papers

The 2015 AIR PIAAC commissioned papers, funded through a contract with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education, are intended to broaden the base of research through exploration and use of the PIAAC dataset and its analytical tools. 

Using the PIAAC Literacy Framework to Guide Instruction: An Introduction for Adult Educators (Amy R. Trawick, Center for Adult Learning Leadership and Advancement)
The purpose of this introductory guide is to describe how adult literacy practitioners--such as teachers, lead instructors, and professional developers--might enhance their efforts with adult developing readers by incorporating relevant tools from PIAAC’s literacy framework to support the goals of WIOA, the CCRS, and adult learners themselves.

View full research paper ›

Using the PIAAC Numeracy Framework to Guide Instruction: An Introduction for Adult Educators (Donna Curry, Center for Adult Numeracy, TERC)
This guide is designed for practitioners, including teachers, lead instructors, and professional developers, who are ready to take up the challenge to change how numeracy is taught in adult education. If instructors shift their teaching to focus more on the use of numeracy skills, they might find that their students not only score better on formal assessments but that they are more effective in using numeracy in their daily lives.

View full research paper ›

Using the PIAAC Framework for Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments to Guide Instruction: An Introduction for Adult Educators (Jenifer B. Vanek, University of Minnesota)
This brief is a guide for Adult Education and Literacy practitioners who are ready to teach the PS-TRE. One goal of the guide is to nudge practitioners to reconsider current technology integration in ABE classrooms, adding a cognitive dimension to their technology use instruction. In doing so, teachers can include instructional activities that help learners to not only use technologies, but also develop an understanding of the complex processes required to employ them. Whether teaching in Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Secondary Education (ASE), or English Language Acquisition programs, practitioners can refer to the brief when creating curricular activities that teach how to solve problems or handle day-to-day activities in the digital environment.

View full research paper ›

Examining Gender Differences in the Mathematical Literacy of 15-Year-Olds and the Numeracy Skills of the Age Cohorts as Adults (Alka Arora and Emily Pawlowksi, American Institutes for Research)
Using PIAAC and PISA data, this paper examines the relationship of the mathematics proficiency of fifteen-year-olds to the proficiency of their age cohort as adults. The mathematical literacy performance of fifteen-year-olds in PISA 2003 and the numeracy performance of the relevant age cohort that participated in PIAAC 2012, which assessed adults aged 16 to 65, is compared. After exploring similarities or differences in  the performance of countries on these two assessments, and looking at performance by gender, this study then focuses on factors that may contribute to changes in gender differences over time, such as field of study, occupation, and skill use at work and at home. 

View full research paper ›

Education and Work in the 21st Century: Credential Inflation or Transformation? (Frank Fernandez and Mark Umbricht, Pennsylvania State University)
This paper will analyze data from the U.S. PIAAC Main Study, the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL), and the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALS) to test two competing paradigms in educational and social science research: credential inflation (the idea that degrees are becoming more costly and less valuable in the labor market); and educational transformation (the idea that education is not becoming less valuable, but rather that education, skills, and work are evolving in the knowledge economy).

The analysis will be guided by a series of related questions: 

  • Do respondents with similar levels of education tend to have similar levels of employment (and, among those who are employed, similar job duties) over time?
  • Do respondents with similar levels of education tend to work similar numbers of hours per week and have similar earnings over time? 
  • Are education credentials or literacy and numeracy skills better predictors of labor market outcomes over time? View full research paper ›   View Excel file ›

Literacy and Numeracy Skills of Second-Generation Young Adults: A Comparative Study of Canada, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. (Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix, Migration Policy Institute)
This paper will examine the characteristics and competencies of young adults between ages 16 to 34 by immigrant generation--the population that should benefit the most from targeted educational and workforce training programs to improve employment prospects and increase national economic productivity.

Specifically, the authors will analyze the PIAAC data in order to answer the following research questions: 

  • What are the key demographic and social characteristics of young adults (16-34) by generation? How do they vary across countries?
  • How do literacy and numeracy skills of the second-generation young adults (ages 16 to 34) compare to those of the first, immigrant generation?
  • Do the second-generation young adults in Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom catch up with the third generation as in the United States? View full research paper ›

Literacy and Fertility Across OECD Nations (Jane Seymour, Rosemary Frasso, and Ian Bennett, University of Pennsylvania)
Demographic, public health, and medical research indicate that total parity—that is, the number of children born to each woman—is associated with individual and population health, as well as national economic health. The health and educational impacts of the number of children born per woman are particularly important to consider as developed countries, including the United States, propose changes to parental policies, which encourage childbirth. 

This paper will offer insight into the degree to which literacy can mediate the effects of age and other sociodemographic factors on parity across the countries participating in PIAAC. It will also offer insight into the role of literacy in the relationship between race/ethnicity and parity in the United States. View full research paper ›

Reconstructing the Evolution of the American Supply of Cognitive Skills: A Synthetic Cohort Analysis (Marilyn Binkley and T. Scott Murray, DataAngel Policy Research; Richard Shillington, Tristat Resources)
Changes in average literacy scores of adult populations and population subgroups are the product of the net impact of significant skill gain and skill loss. By conducting a synthetic cohort analysis with data from the PIAAC Main Study, the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL), and the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALS), we reconstruct an approximation individual skill trajectories over time. These data allow for a comparison of differences in the distribution of skill gain and loss in population sub-groups. The data also provide a means to explore the factors that are associated with skill gain and loss, including characteristics of the jobs held. Because skill has a significant impact on labor market, social, health and education outcomes at both the individual and macro levels, there is a strong policy interest in understanding the social and economic processes that underlie skill gain and loss. View full research paper ›

Persisting Gaps: Labor Market Outcomes and Numeracy Skill Levels of First Generation and Multi Generation College Graduates (Karly Sarita Ford and Mark Richard Umbricht, Pennsylvania State University)
This paper will use the PIAAC data to focus on economic mobility in the United States and the relationship between social origins, education, individual skills, and occupational destinations.

It is widely believed that a college degree erases any social advantage or disadvantage an individual had as a child. Many scholars have tested this relationship—in the United States and abroad—using nationally representative datasets. However, few have been able to assess this relationship while taking into account individual cognitive skills, defined in the paper as numeracy skills. PIAAC provides researchers with the unique opportunity to analyze the relationship between individual numeracy skill levels and education credentials and social mobility. 

Specifically, the authors will investigate the following questions:

  • Is there a difference in numeracy scores between first-generation college graduates and multi-generation college graduates? In other words, are the advantages of having highly educated parents associated with educational attainment and cognitive skills in adulthood?
  • Is college graduate generational status related to employment outcomes after controlling for numeracy score? Or, are the advantages of having highly educated parents associated with employment outcomes in adulthood?

View full research paper    View Excel file ›

Earnings and Employment Benefits of Adult Higher Education in Comparative Perspective: Evidence Based on the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (Richard Desjardins, University of California Los Angeles)
This paper seeks to examine comparatively across OECD countries the earnings and labor force status differentials of adults who completed their higher education (HE) degree at older ages than the normative age of graduation. Statistical differentials in labor market outcomes such as earnings are compared between adults who completed their highest qualification before or after the normative age. Results reveal comparative policy insights, for example, regarding the potential effects of HE institutions that open up their doors to non-traditional students.

The paper will build on the work carried out by Margaret Becker Patterson and Usha Paulson who made use of the PIAAC data to study post-secondary transitions of adult in the US (paper entitled Adult Transitions to Learning in the USA: What do PIAAC survey results tell us?). Those authors had focused exclusively on US data. In contrast, this paper will be based on comparative analysis of data to draw out policy insights for the US case. Moreover, the analysis of the labor market outcomes will be much more detailed and linked to the existing international literature on this topic.

The proposed research will address the following questions: 

  • What is the incidence of adult higher education in comparative perspective?
  • Who participates in adult higher education in comparative perspective?
  • What does research say about the higher education outcomes for non-traditional students compared to traditional students?
  • What are the comparative earnings differentials of traditional vs non-traditional students using PIAAC data?
  • What are the comparative employment differentials of traditional vs non-traditional students using PIAAC data?
  • What is the link between the openness of HE systems to non-traditional students and the overall employment rate?
  • What is the link between the openness of HE systems to non-traditional students and cross-country skill profiles? View full research paper ›

2014 Research Papers

The 2014 AIR PIAAC commissioned papers, funded through a contract with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), are intended to broaden the base of research based on exploration and use of the PIAAC dataset and its analytical tools. 

Adults’ Learning Strategies, Uses, and Literacy Proficiencies (M Cecil Smith, West Virginia University; Amy Rose, Northern Illinois University; Jovita Ross-Gordon, Texas State University; Thomas J. Smith, Northern IIlinois University) looks at PIAAC’s “readiness to learn” index in a U.S. context and examine the extent to which it is related to skill levels in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE) and whether it mediates the effects of demographic and socio-economic factors on skill levels. The paper also examines whether the relationships among readiness to learn, skill levels, and skill use vary by selected demographic factors, such as gender, age, work experience, and education, and examines whether the index is correlated with the U.S. adults’ participation in learning activities, such as open/distance education and on-the-job training. View full research paper ›

Gender and Numerical Skill Use: Cross-National Revelations from PIAAC (Danielle Lindemann, Rutgers University) seeks to understand whether there are significant gaps in the extent to which men and women use numerical skills at work; what the importance of a variety of covariates including education level, age cohort, job title, and country of residence are to these gendered outcomes; and what relationship, if any, there is between gender disparity in deployment of numerical skills and gender disparity in earnings. It also seeks to assess the relationship between gender, type of occupation, and use of numeracy. View full research paper ›

Revisiting the effects of skills on inequality: Within- and cross-country comparisons using PIAAC (Anita Alves Pena, Colorado State University) By conducting analysis on PIAAC data, this study adds to the existing literature on the relationship between wage inequality and the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills of adults in an international context. The analysis includes both individual-level and country-level data from PIAAC and supplemental sources and takes into account both demographic and educational institution differences within and across participating countries in order to explore the effects of education and training opportunities on wage inequality across groups of people. View full research paper ›

A Comparative Study of Immigrant and Native Employees in the United States and Canada (William Smith and Frank Fernandez, Penn State University) examines whether, after matching on occupation, there are wage differences between native citizens and immigrants with similar skills, cognitive abilities, and education levels. The U.S. and Canada comparison is important, given that the United States and Canada receive more than half of all OECD immigrants and two-thirds of the OECD immigrants who have attended tertiary institutions. The research specifically examines whether there are differences in the educational attainment of immigrants in the United States and Canada, how immigrants differ from natives in terms of educational attainment, cognitive abilities, and technological skills, and examines whether the factors that influence wage disparities differ between countries. View full research paper ›

Cognitive and non-cognitive factors that affect how people seek health information (Iris Feinberg and Daphne Greenberg, Georgia State University; Jan C. Frijters, Brock University) aims to shed more light on the complex and interactive relationship between health, literacy, and health-information seeking. The research explores whether there is a relationship between SES factors, English literacy skills, and the sources people use to seek health information (i.e., Internet, television, family members or friends). It also looks at whether people with different health status and preventive health practices seek health information in different ways, and if so, what role literacy levels play. View full research paper ›

Examining Associations between Adult Health and Literacy, Numeracy, Technological Problem-Solving Skills, and Post-Initial Learning in the U.S. (Shannon Monnat, Esther Prins, Carol Clymer, Blaire Toso, Penn State University) examines how U.S. respondents’ health outcomes are shaped by literacy, numeracy, and information and communication technology (ICT) skills, and how this varies by race/ethnicity and educational attainment. In addition, the project identifies which types of post-initial education (a) have the strongest association with health and (b) matter the most for the health outcomes of different racial/ethnic groups and individuals with different levels of educational attainment. View full research paper ›

An Analysis of Adult Education and Training of Older Age Adults (Phyllis Cummins, Ryan Walker, and Suzanne Kunkel, Miami University, Scripps Gerontology Center) examines outcomes for adults in the U.S. and several other countries, including Japan, Sweden, and Germany, who participated in varying levels of adult education and training (AET). The research examines what types and intensities of AET relate to labor force participation, employment, and income, as well as how these outcomes vary by selected demographic factors, such as age group, gender, educational attainment. In addition, this study reviews policies and practices for AET in the countries included in this research. View full research paper › 

2013 Research Papers

In 2013, the American Institutes for Research, through a contract with the National Center for Education Statistics, commissioned four white papers on the following topics:

Adult Transitions to Learning in the USA: What Do PIAAC Survey Results Tell Us? (Margaret Patterson and Usha Paulson, Research Allies for Lifelong Learning)
This paper uses PIAAC data to examine U.S. adult transitions into post-secondary education and training. The paper compares data on post-secondary education and training participation reported in PIAAC for traditional vs. non-traditional students. Traditional students are defined as those who have graduated from high school and attended or graduated from college in the 16-24 age range. Non-traditional students are those who did not complete high school but attended college, regardless of age; or those who are 25-65 years of age and indicated attending or graduating from college at age 25 or older. The paper examines their motivations and hindrances for further formal and informal training, as well as their PIAAC skill levels and current earnings. Along with the PIAAC data, the paper uses nationwide data available through other sources to provide a richer picture of the educational transitions opportunities available for Americans today. View full research paper ›

Digital Inclusion and Digital Literacy in the United States: A Portrait from PIAAC (Stephen Reder, Portland State University)
This paper uses PIAAC data to explore the various pathways and background characteristics that lead towards digital inclusion and digital literacy. It also examines the ways in which problem-solving in technology-rich environments is related to other skills and activities of Americans. Building on the reported low performance levels of the adults in the United States compared to their international peers, it examines the conditions and pre-conditions which limit skill development opportunities in such a technologically-rich environment as the United States. In the process of exploring these topics, the paper develops indicators of digital inclusion and digital literacy based on the data available in PIAAC and other closely related data sets. View full research paper  ›

What Does PIAAC Data Tell Us About Immigrants in the United States? (Michael Fix and Jeanne Batalova, Migration Policy Institute)
This paper uses PIAAC data to examine immigration and social and economic integration of immigrants into various aspects of life in the United States. Comprising less than a sixth of the total population, the American Community Survey reported foreign-born adults as more likely to be in the labor force than the native-born population. At the same time, the foreign-born are reported to have both lower educational attainment and lower performance on direct assessments of competencies, such as PIAAC, than native-born adults. This suggests that while immigrants are being integrated in some aspects, they are being excluded in other very important aspects of U.S. life. This paper integrates PIAAC data with data available through other sources to provide a rich picture of the level of participation of foreign-born adults in United States. It examines indicators of immigrant integration using PIAAC data and explores the education and other characteristics that are associated with greater integration of this segment of the population.  View full research paper › 

Skills Proficiency and Job Market Outcomes in the United States: Evidence from PIAAC (Harry Holzer, Georgetown University and AIR; and Robert Lerman, American University and Urban Institute)
This paper extends the analysis of the relationship between skills proficiency and labor market outcomes well beyond the findings in the OECD report on the United States.  Among the questions it examines are the following:

1) How do proficiency levels in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving vary between and within demographic, education and occupational groups?  For which subgroups is the lack of basic skills proficiency most pronounced? Do we find skill shortfalls in one of the three areas even for native-born groups with postsecondary credentials or in middle-skill occupations?  

2) Do weak skill proficiencies significantly limit the ability of workers from obtaining middle-skill credentials and jobs or do those holding such jobs vary widely in their proficiencies?

3) To what extent are earnings differentials related to differentials in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving levels, even within occupations that do and do not require some postsecondary credentials?  

4) To what extent does skill proficiency correlate with worker perceptions of the skill demands of jobs? How do differentials in skill use on the job differ from measures of proficiency?  How do these relationships vary across occupations?

The answers to these questions highlight key facts and relationships and suggest subsequent analyses of the U.S. PIAAC micro data. View full research paper ›