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Ageing and Literacy Skills: Evidence from Canada, Norway and the United States

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  • Green, David A.
  • Riddell, W. Craig

Abstract

We study the relationship between age and literacy skills in Canada, Norway and the U.S. – countries that represent a wide range of literacy outcomes -- using data from the 1994 and 2003 International Adult Literacy Surveys. In cross-sectional data there is a weak negative partial relationship between literacy skills and age. However, this relationship could reflect some combination of age and cohort effects. In order to identify age effects, we use the 1994 and 2003 surveys to create synthetic cohorts. Our analysis shows that the modest negative slope of the literacy-age profile in cross-sectional data arises from offsetting ageing and cohort effects. Individuals from a given birth cohort lose literacy skills after they leave school at a rate greater than indicated by cross-sectional estimates. At the same time, more recent birth cohorts have lower levels of literacy. These results suggest a pervasive tendency for literacy skills to decline over time and that these countries are doing a poorer job of educating successive generations. All three countries show similar patterns of skill loss with age, as well as declining literacy across successive cohorts. The countries differ, however, in the part of the skill distribution where falling skills are most evident. In Canada the cross-cohort declines are especially large at the top of the skill distribution. In Norway declining skills across cohorts are more prevalent at the bottom of the distribution. In the U.S. the decline in literacy skills over time is most pronounced in the middle of the distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Green, David A. & Riddell, W. Craig, 2012. "Ageing and Literacy Skills: Evidence from Canada, Norway and the United States," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2012-16, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 27 Apr 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:ubc:clssrn:clsrn_admin-2012-16
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Desjardins & Arne Jonas Warnke, 2012. "Ageing and Skills: A Review and Analysis of Skill Gain and Skill Loss Over the Lifespan and Over Time," OECD Education Working Papers 72, OECD Publishing.
    2. Green, David A. & Craig Riddell, W., 2003. "Literacy and earnings: an investigation of the interaction of cognitive and unobserved skills in earnings generation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 165-184, April.
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    9. Ana Ferrer & David A. Green & W. Craig Riddell, 2006. "The Effect of Literacy on Immigrant Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Karsten Albæk, 2015. "A test of the ‘lose it or use it’ hypothesis in labour markets around the world," Working Papers 2015/24, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    2. Bloom, David E. & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2013. "Ageing and Productivity: Introduction," IZA Discussion Papers 7205, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Garry Barrett & W. Craig Riddell, 2016. "Ageing and Literacy Skills: Evidence from IALS, ALL And PIAAC," OECD Education Working Papers 145, OECD Publishing.
    4. Bernt Bratsberg & Torbjørn Hægeland & Oddbjørn Raaum, 2013. "Immigrant skills and employment. Cross-country evidence from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey," Discussion Papers 730, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    5. Bloom, David E. & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2013. "Ageing and productivity," FZID Discussion Papers 63-2012, University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID).
    6. Albæk, Karsten, 2016. "A Test of the ?Use it or Lose It? Hypothesis in Labour Markets around the World/Una prueba de la hipótesis "usarlo o perderlo" en los mercados de trabajo del mundo," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 34, pages 323-352, Mayo.
    7. Hanushek, Eric A. & Schwerdt, Guido & Wiederhold, Simon & Woessmann, Ludger, 2015. "Returns to skills around the world: Evidence from PIAAC," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 103-130.
    8. Jorge Calero & Inés P. Murillo Huertas & Josep Lluís Raymond Bara, 2016. "Education, age and skills: an analysis using the PIAAC survey," Working Papers 2016/3, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Human capital; Cognitive skills; Literacy; Ageing;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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