Report

Literacy in OECD – In most countries, there are large gaps which tend to widen with ages

In most countries, there are large gaps in literacy proficiency between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged 15-year-olds, which tend to widen on average as individuals enter adulthood.

Socio-economic disparities vary widely from country to country

How skills are distributed across the population has signi cant implications for economic and social outcomes. Therefore, assessing the extent to which parental educational attainment and the possession
of cultural resources determine the acquisition of information-processing skills needed for further education, training, the labour market and everyday life is an important policy consideration.

The score gap in literacy pro ciency associated with parental education is generally large at the age of
15 and it tends to widen as the cohort of students observed in PISA move into young adulthood. In the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland, the standardized parental education gap is greater than 0.5 at the age of 15 and increases by age 27. By contrast, in Belgium (Flanders), Canada and the United States the gap is larger than 0.5 at age 15 but decreases by age 27. In New Zealand, Norway and Sweden the standardised parental education gap is small at age 15 (standardised gap around 0.3) but it increases by young adulthood and, in New Zealand, it becomes as large as 0.8. In Korea the gap is small at age 15 and remains small by age 27. The parental education gap at the age of 15 is medium-sized in Australia, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain. The gap remains stable in Germany, while it tends to grow in the other countries.

Among the highest-achieving individuals (those performing at the 90th percentile in literacy), the standardised gap between those with at least one tertiary- educated parent and those with no parent educated at the tertiary level remains relatively stable between the ages of 15 and 27. The gap in literacy was 0.46 at age 15 and 0.53 at age 27. On average, among individuals at the bottom of the performance distribution (10th percentile), the gap associated with parental educational attainment at the age of 15 is very similar, at 0.48. However, between the ages of 15 and 27, the gap for those at the bottom end of the performance distribution grows much more strongly, to 0.77.

Comparison between cohorts in PISA and PIAAC does not allow growth in achievement to be measured. However, analyses of age-pro ciency pro les in literacy in PIAAC by parental educational attainment and the number of books in the family home provide some relevant evidence. An important caveat is that, in this case, comparisons are not looking at the same cohort over time, but different cohorts at a single point in time.

These socio-economic disparities in literacy proficiency remain stable between the ages of 15 and 27 among high-achieving individuals but widen considerably among low-performers.

The average literacy proficiency of both socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged young adults increases between the ages of 16 and 27, but skills grow faster among socio-economically advantaged individuals.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Do socio-economic disparities in skills grow between the teenage years and young adulthood?

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