Adult Literacy and Educational Attainment

Christine Miller


Due to the paucity of research on adults who struggle with reading, not much is known about the relationship between childhood education and the adult characteristics of this population. The aim of this dissertation is to describe what is known about adults with low reading skills and to evaluate the relationships between childhood education and adult characteristics which are of interest to educators, policy makers, and adult program administrators. The first chapter is a literature review about 2 prominent factors in human capital models, adult literacy, and educational attainment. This chapter consists of three parts: 1) A description of the literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments capabilities among U.S. adults; 2) a description of the heterogeneity of adults with low reading skills; and 3) a description of educational attainment (high school graduation and high school equivalency options) as well as adult education programs in Georgia. The second chapter is an investigation of the relationships between key variables of interests (childhood school disability and grade repetition statuses, as well as current reading related skills, reading avoidance behavior, reading practices, employment status, and readiness-to-learn characteristics) and childhood educational attainment in a sample of 201 native English speakers who read at the 3.0-7.9 grade equivalency levels. Responses to surveys and scores for the reading skills tests were analyzed to answer two research questions. The first question was general, is there a relationship between educational attainment and the other variables? Cramer V and Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient tests were run. The only significant finding was the Cramer V test which indicated that school disability status was correlated with educational attainment. The second question was whether these variables were useful predictors of educational attainment group membership. The results of Multinomial Logistic Regressions indicated that only childhood school disability status, reading avoidance, and performance on two reading skills tests (Word Attack and Reading Fluency) were useful predictors of educational attainment group membership. The results urge the need for caution against assumptions that educational attainment implies certain characteristics and reading skills.