Are Our Jobs Changing Our Literacy Skills?

Are Our Jobs Changing Our Literacy Skills?

Are Our Jobs Changing Our Literacy Skills?

Date posted: October 4, 2017

Analysis of data from international literacy surveys reveals that:

  • Although education levels have increased over the years, average skill levels did not rise as expected.
  • While adults of all backgrounds gain and lose literacy skills over time, the general trend is a decline in an individual’s skills as they get older.
  • The cognitive demands of a job seem to play an important role in the gain or loss of skills. Adults in jobs that require an application of cognitive skills in a non-routine way tend to gain skills while those with jobs that require non-demanding routine use of skills tend to lose skills. The frequency of skill use has little impact on loss or gain.

Researchers suggest that making students’ advanced skills more visible to employers will help match them to employment that makes better use of their skills and maintains their skill level. They recommend that policies pay attention to the demand for literacy skills at work as well as the supply of available skills. Policies and programs that support lifelong learning will also help maintain or improve literacy skills over time.

Read Are Our Jobs Making Us Dumber? in Education Week for a concise review of the research.

The article is based largely on Reconstructing the Evolution of the American Supply of Cognitive Skills: A Synthetic Cohort Analysis by T. Scott Murray, Marilyn Binkley and Richard Shillington. This may be particularly interesting to anyone interested in statistics as they used statistical matching to create ‘synthetic’ individuals that look like they participated in both 2003 ALL and 2011 PIAAC studies.

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