|Title:||A Mixed-Methods Study of Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Lifelong Learning, Skill Proficiencies, and Employment in the U.S. and Selected OECD Countries|
|Principal Investigator:||Cummins, Phyllis||Awardee:||Miami University|
|Program:||Postsecondary and Adult Education [Program Details]|
|Award Period:||3 years (7/1/2017-6/30/2020)||Award Amount:||$1,228,065|
Co-Principal Investigator: Yamashita, Takashi
Purpose: Middle-aged and older workers represent nearly half of the U.S. labor force, yet little is known about this population's skill levels and how they interact with education, labor, and other outcomes. In this study, researchers explored associations among older U.S. adults' skill proficiencies (i.e., literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills), employment, labor force status, lifelong learning, educational attainment, and cohort effects on these associations. Skill proficiencies and lifelong learning are critical malleable factors for understanding employment and labor force issues in later life, and because more adults are staying in the labor force longer, policymakers and institutions of learning need to understand how these factors and proficiencies interact and predict education and labor market outcomes. In the U.S., adults in all age groups with lower skill proficiencies are less likely to participate in lifelong learning activities and are less likely to participate in the labor force. As compared to the U.S., Nordic countries (e.g., Sweden and Norway) have higher rates of participation in lifelong learning activities at all skill levels, likely due to "popular education" opportunities, such as folk high schools and learning associations. Advances in technology and job loss due to automation has made providing opportunities for lifelong learning activities for adults with low skill proficiencies increasingly important.
Project Activities: This mixed-methods study leveraged national and international secondary data sets of adult skills, qualitative analysis of education/labor policies, and key informant interviews. The researchers compared U.S. adults' performance and U.S. policies to those in other developed countries while refining their theory of lifelong learning, educational attainment, skill proficiency, and labor outcomes. The researchers completed interviews with 61 key informants in 11 countries who are experts in adult learning policies and practices in their respective countries and supplemented these interviews with document and literature reviews to have a better understanding of adult learning in multiple countries. These efforts aimed to inform education policy for adults in the U.S. The main and supplemental analyses provide a better understanding the role of literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts, including participation in lifelong education activities, labor force participation, motivation to learn, and health information seeking.
Key Outcomes: The main findings of this exploratory study are as follows:
Products: Researchers produced a refined theory of lifelong learning and policies for improving outcomes for middle-aged and older adults. They prepared peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: The research includes data collected from multiple OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations.
Sample: This study included samples of adults aged 40 to 74, with approximately 17,220 U.S. adults across the three data sets. The researchers interviewed 5 to 7 key informants in 11 countries for a total of 61 interviews. Of those interviewed, 24 were male and 37 were female.
Malleable Factors: Middle-aged and older workers represent an increasingly significant segment of the U.S. labor force, accounting for nearly half of all workers. However, there is widespread underemployment among middle aged and older workers, especially those with lower skill proficiencies (e.g., low literacy), and this has implications for individuals, their families, and the economy as a whole. The ability to take part in and benefit from lifelong learning can improve employment outcomes for middle-aged and older workers. To improve outcomes for older workers, governments establish policies and programs to help working adults access lifelong learning opportunities. Yet the relationships among lifelong learning, skill proficiencies, and employment remain poorly understood, and the benefits of different governmental policies are unclear. This study explored those relationships and examined the benefits of different policies on educational and other outcomes.
Research Design and Methods: This study used a mixed-methods research design, comprised of statistical analysis of large survey data, qualitative analysis of education/labor policies, and key informant interviews. The survey data come from three nationally and internationally representative surveys of adults: the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL). These surveys cover a number of skills including literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in digital environments, and they can be combined to explore cohort effects. The researchers pooled samples from PIAAC, IALS, and ALL and classified cases into synthetic cohorts for estimating age and cohort effects on employment, labor force, skill proficiencies, and lifelong learning.
In addition to mining these survey data, the researchers also collected documents regarding the participating nations' education and labor policies. They analyzed these documents and conducted interviews with 61 informants in the U.S. and other targeted nations to help better understand the purpose and impact of the policies. Data were triangulated from these qualitative components with the quantitative analysis of the surveys.
Control Condition: Due to the exploratory design, there is no control condition. However, U.S. data were compared to data from other OECD nations.
Key Measures: Key measures include employment and labor force status, skill proficiencies (i.e., literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills), participation in formal and non-formal lifelong learning, participation in distance education, skill use both in and out of the workplace, educational attainment, age and age group (i.e., cohort), health outcomes, information seeking behaviors, civic engagement (e.g., volunteering), social trust, and other basic demographic characteristics (e.g., socioeconomic status).
Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers used linear and binary logistic regression models with complex sampling weights. In the qualitative analysis, the research team used grounded theory to analyze data from education and labor policies and key informant interviews in the selected OECD nations.
Related IES Project: Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem-Solving Skills in Technology-Rich Environment in the STEM-related Subbaccalaureate Programs in the U.S. (R305A200261)
Additional Online Resources and Information
Yamashita, T. Research brief: Health Information Sources, Education, Literacy, Numeracy and Health Status. Posted January 28, 2020 on YouTube. https://youtu.be/bdx3mySYC8M
Sahoo, S. Problem Solving Skills and Cancer Screening.Posted February, 11 2020 on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2hmCJRe33w&feature=youtu.be
Millar, R. J. Problem Solving and Health: Does Age Matter? Posted January 30th, 2020 on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isyKTr4TylM&feature=emb_title
Takashi Yamashita's website includes multiple resources related to this grant.
Scripps Gerontology Center website includes multiple conference presentation videos.
In addition to the resources listed about, the researchers regularly use Facebook and Twitter to make constituencies aware of new publications and grant activities in general.
Cummins, P., Bahr, P. R., & Yamashita, T. (2022). Living longer, working longer, learning longer. In E. F. Fideler (Ed.), Handbook on Aging and Work (pp. 327–347). Rowman & Littlefield.
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Cummins, P., Harrington, A.K, & Yamashita, T. (2021). Individual learning accounts: A comparison of implemented and proposed initiatives. Adult Learning. Online ahead of publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/10451595211046971
Cummins, P. A., Yamashita, T., Millar, R. J. and Sahoo, S. (2019). Problem-Solving Skills of the U.S. Workforce and Preparedness for Job Automation. Adult Learning, 30(3), 111–120. doi:10.1177/1045159518818407. Full text
Dikhtyar, O., Helsinger, A., Cummins, P., & Hicks, N. (2021). Adult education and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: An international perspective. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning 23(1), 201–210. https://doi.org/10.5456/WPLL.23.1.201
Hicks, N., Millar, R. J., Girling, L. M., Cummins, P. A., & Yamashita, T. (2021). Conducting virtual qualitative interviews with international key informants: Insights from a research project. The Qualitative Report, 26(9), 2857–2871. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2021.4909.
Millar, R. J., Sahoo, S., Yamashita, T., & Cummins, P. A. (2020). Literacy skills, language use, and online health information seeking among Hispanic adults in the United States. Patient Education and Counseling, 103(8), 1595–1600. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2020.02.030.
Millar, R. J., Sahoo, S., Yamashita, T. and Cummins, P. (2020). Problem-Solving in Technology Rich Environments and Self-Rated Health Among Adults in the U.S.: An Analysis of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Journal of Applied Gerontology. Advance online publication. 39(8), 889–897. doi: 10.1177/0733464819829663. Full text
Sahoo, S., Millar, R. J., Yamashita, T. & Cummins, P. (2020). Problem solving in technology rich environments and cancer screening in later life. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 29(5), 474–480. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000570. Full Text
Sahoo, S., Millar, R. Yamashita, T, & Cummins, P. (2021). Educational attainment, literacy skills, nativity, and motivation to learn among middle-aged adults in the U.S. Adult Learning. Online ahead of publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/10451595211048554
Yamashita, T., Bardo, A. R., Cummins, P. A., Millar, R. J., Sahoo, S., & Liu, D. (2019). The Roles of Education, Literacy, and Numeracy in Need for Health Information During the Second Half of Adulthood: A Moderated Mediation Analysis. Journal of Health Communication, 24(3), 271–283. Full text
Yamashita, T., Bardo, A. R., Liu, D. & Cummins, P. A. (2020). Literacy, numeracy, and health information seeking among middle-aged and older adults in the United States. Journal of Aging and Health, 32(1), 33–41. doi:10.1177/0898264318800918. Full text
Yamashita, T., Bardo, A. R., Millar, R. J. and Liu, D. (2018). Numeracy and Preventive Healthcare Service Utilization Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults in the U.S. Clinical Gerontologist, 1–12. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2018.1468378 Full text
Yamashita, T. & Cummins, P. (2021). Jobs at risk of automation in the USA: Implications for community colleges. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10668926.2021.1876782
Yamashita, T., Cummins, P. A., Arbogast, A., and Millar, R. J. (2018). Adult Competencies and Employment Outcomes Among Older Workers in the United States: An Analysis of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Adult Education Quarterly, 68(3), 235–250. doi:10.1177/0741713618773496. Full text
Yamashita, T., Cummins, P. A., Millar, R. J., Sahoo, S., & Smith, T. J. (2019). Associations Between Motivation to Learn, Basic Skills, and Adult Education and Training Participation Among Older Adults in the USA. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 1–15. Full text
Yamashita, T., Smith, T. J., & Cummins, P. A. (2020). A Practical Guide for Analyzing Large-Scale Assessment Data Using Mplus: A Case Demonstration Using the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies Data. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, Advance online publication, 1076998620978554. Full text
Yamashita, T., Zhang, J. Sun, N., & Cummins, P. (2021). Socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and basic skills of the non-formal distance education participants among adults in the U.S. Adult Education Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/07417136211044509
Harrington, K., Cummins, P. A., & Yamashita, T. (2018). Funding Individual Learning Accounts in the Latter Half of Life: A Comparison of Initiatives in Four Countries. Commission for International Adult Education. Full Text
Helsinger, A., Cummins, P. A., Yamashita, T., (2020). Missing the mark: Exploring participation rates and challenges to engage low-skilled adults in education and training. Commission for International Adult Education. Full Text
Helsinger, A., Hicks, N., Cummins, P., & Yamashita, T. (2020). Domestic and international perspectives on implementing alternatives to lifelong education. In J. P. Egan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Adult Education in Global Times Conference." Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education." (ISBN 978-0-920056-53-0). Full Text
Helsinger, A., Hicks, N., Cummins, P. & Yamashita, T. (2020). Practical guidance in identifying, recruiting, and interviewing international key informants in adult education research. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education Annual Conference. Full Text.
Millar, R. J., Sahoo, S., Yamashita, T. & Cummins, P. A. (2020). Association between literacy skills, language use, and online health information seeking among Hispanic Americans. In J. P. Egan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Adult Education in Global Times Conference. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. (ISBN 978-0-920056-53-0). Full Text
Nwakasi, C., Cummins, P. A., Mehri, N., Zhang, J. & Yamashita, T. (2019). Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments, Adult Education and Training, and Income: An International Comparison Using PIAAC Data. Presented at the Commission for International Adult Education annual conference, St. Louis, MO. Full Text
Sahoo, S., Millar, R. J., Yamashita, T. & Cummins, P. A. (2020). Literacy skills and motivation to learn among immigrant adults in the U.S. In J. P. Egan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Adult Education in Global Times Conference." Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. (ISBN 978-0-920056-53-0). Full Text