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Overview

Conducted between 2003 and 2008, the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL) Survey was an international comparative study designed to provide participating countries, including the United States, with information about the skills of their adult populations.  ALL measured the literacy and numeracy skills of a nationally representative sample of 16- to 65-year olds in participating countries in two rounds:  first, in 2003 and then again between 2006 and 2008.  The original six countries to participate in the first round were Bermuda, Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States.  Four countries participated in the second round: Australia, Hungary, Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Literacy was defined in ALL as the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from text and other written formats.  Numeracy was defined in ALL as the knowledge and skills required to manage mathematical demands of diverse situations.

Information from ALL addressed questions such as:

  • What is the distribution of literacy and numeracy skills among U.S. adults? How do these skill distributions compare to those of other countries?
  • What is the relationship between these literacy skills and the economic, social, and personal characteristics of individuals? For example: Do different age or linguistic groups manifest different skill levels? Do males and females perform differently? At what kinds of jobs do people at various literacy levels work? What wages do they earn? How do adults who have completed different levels of education perform?
  • What is the relationship between these skills and the economic and social characteristics of nations? For example, how do the skills of the adult labor force of a country match with areas of the economy that are growing?

On a pilot basis, ALL also measured adults' problem-solving skills and gathered information on their familiarity with information and communication technologies.

ALL built on the foundation of earlier studies of adult literacy. Chief among these earlier studies is the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), which was conducted in three phases (in 1994, 1996 and 1998) in 20 nations, including the United States.

Data from the ALL study can be linked to data from the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), the 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), and the 2011 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

For highlights of the results from the first round of ALL, click here.  For detailed results from the first round of ALL, see Learning a Living: First Results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (Statistics Canada and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2005).  For results for countries in the second round of ALL, see Literacy for Life: Further Results from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (Statistics Canada and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2011).

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education