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The Case for Investment in Adult Basic Education
Posted by Jennifer Paulding on March 29, 2017 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryAdvocacy
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Literacy's Role in Society

There is a significant connection between participation in adult basic skills programs and increased employment and income levels, high school equivalency and postsecondary education attainment, and civic participation. This return on investment, however, remains mostly unknown to policy makers, funders, and the general public.

ProLiteracy’s new white paper, The Case for Investment in Adult Basic Education, is based on a 10-year research study conducted by Dr. Stephen Reder, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University. Dr. Reder found substantial evidence proving that involvement in adult basic skills programs has a positive return on investment related to improving an adult’s life. It has been concluded that low adult literacy has a huge adverse effect on the employability and earnings of American adults, and on our nation’s economic and social well-being. This research provides a strong case for the need to increase investment in adult education through federal and state policies, private foundations, and individual donors. 

From 1998-2007, Dr. Reder conducted the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) to analyze the correlation between adults with low literacy skills who participated in adult basic skills (ABS) programs and those who did not. Ultimately he wanted to deliver data that showed the positive long-term outcomes for adults who have access to sufficiently funded adult literacy programs. 

View the White Paper

You can view the white paper here. We urge you to share the white paper widely through your networks and contacts to highlight the return on investment for adult literacy education. Please use the following link: https://www.proliteracy.org/Resources/Need-for-Literacy-Research. Below are a couple excerpts from the white paper.

Excerpt: Economic Gains


The study showed significant improvement in economic gains for participants compared with what they would have earned had they not participated. The wage trajectories for ABS program participants vs. nonparticipants were dramatically different over time (see Figure 1). During the 10-year period, ABS participants showed mean income gains of 53 percent (in constant 1997 dollars) as compared to an income drop of 2 percent for nonparticipants. According to the LSAL study report, “This large overall difference suggests that ABS program participation may be central to sustained income growth for this low-education population.”

Excerpt: Literacy Growth 

In terms of actual literacy acquisition, once again, individuals who were active in literacy programs were more likely to show an increase in literacy skills than those who were not. Individuals who were not enrolled in programs showed virtually no literacy skill gain over time. Those who were active not only showed growth, but their growth in skills increased over time, with 100 or more hours in active instruction (see Figure 2). Adult basic skills program participants also continue to improve their skills, achieving higher levels of literacy in the future, as a result of participating in a program.

 





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Steve Reder paper2

New research proves the correlation between obtaining literacy skills and the return on investment related to improving an adult’s life and future.

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