Skip Navigation
Adult Education Participation in 2004-05

NCES 2006-077
May 2006


This report presents selected data on adults' participation in educational activities in the United States, excluding full-time only enrollments in college/university or vocational/technical credential programs, over a 12-month period from 2004-05. Historically, full-time only participation in postsecondary (college and vocational) programs has not been considered adult education. For this reason, and for comparability with previous reports of adult education based upon NHES surveys, full-time only enrollments are not included in the estimates for participation in college/university and/or vocational/technical credential programs or in the overall estimate of adult education participation.

These data are from the Adult Education Survey of the 2005 National Household Education Surveys Program (AE-NHES:2005). Interviews were conducted with a nationally representative sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized population age 16 or older who were not enrolled in grade 12 or below. Data were collected from early January through April 2005. A total of 8,904 telephone interviews were completed with adults representing a weighted total of 211,607,007. The weighted overall unit response rate was 47.6 percent (the product of the Screener unit response rate [66.9%] and the Adult Education unit response rate [71.2%)] and item nonresponse rates for most of the variables were 3 percent or lower. Additional details about the survey, response rates, and other technical issues are provided in appendix A.

For the AE-NHES:2005 survey, formal adult educational activities were defined by the presence of an instructor, whereas informal adult educational learning activities taken for personal interest did not have an instructor. The AE-NHES:2005 survey was the first administration of an NHES survey to focus on both formal adult educational activities and on informal learning activities for personal interest.

Information was collected on participation in formal adult educational activities such as English as a Second Language (ESL) classes; basic skills or General Educational Development (GED) preparation classes; college or university degree or certificate programs; vocational or technical school diploma, degree, or certificate programs; apprenticeship programs; work-related courses or training that were not part of a college or vocational degree, diploma, or certificate program or an apprenticeship program; and personal-interest courses. In addition, adults were asked about participation in informal learning activities for personal interest (see appendix B - Glossary for definition of terms). The interview included questions about reasons for participation in various adult educational activities, employer support for educational activities, and distance education methods. Additionally, information was collected about personal background, employment, and household characteristics.

Results reported in the tables and bullets are weighted means, medians, and proportions generated by bivariate cross-tabulation procedures. All statements of comparison made in this report have been tested for statistical significance using two-tailed t tests at the 95 percent confidence level. Additional details about statistical procedures utilized in this report are provided in the Statistical Tests section in appendix A.

The purpose of this E.D. TAB is to introduce new NCES survey data through the presentation of selected descriptive information. The E.D. TAB is purely descriptive in nature. Readers are cautioned not to draw causal inferences based solely on the bivariate results presented in this E.D. TAB. It is important to note that many of the variables examined in this report are related to one another, and complex interactions and relationships have not been explored here. The variables examined here are also just a few of the variables that can be examined in these data and were selected to demonstrate the range of information that helped shape the design and now is available from the study. The selected findings are examples of comparisons that can be made using the data and are not designed to emphasize any particular issue. Release of the E.D. TAB is intended to encourage more in-depth analysis of the data, using more sophisticated statistical methods.

Highlights of the data follow, along with information pertaining to each topic area of the questionnaire in the 2005 survey. The selected highlights presented here provide an overview of the types of information available in the AE-NHES:2005 survey data, and are intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.