The Basic Skills of Young Adults: Some Findings from the 1970 British Cohort Study

Carol Ekinsmyth, John Bynner

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


A representative sample of 1,650 members of the 1970 British Cohort Study were surveyed at the age of 21 (in 1992) to gather information on their education, training, and employment experiences after the age of 16 and their self-assessed literacy and numeracy. Respondents also completed a half-hour assessment of their literacy and numeracy skills. Twelve percent of respondents reported problems with either reading, writing/spelling, or numeracy. Of those assessed, 19% and 55% failed to get beyond the foundation levels in literacy and numeracy, respectively. Among common problems detected were difficulties reading letters and forms, working out data and prices, and keeping accounts. Poor performance in the literacy and numeracy assessment was associated with family backgrounds in unskilled labor and parents who had failed to gain any educational qualifications. Among males, poor literacy/numeracy was also associated with higher rates of unemployment. Among females, poor literacy/numeracy was associated with holding a number of different jobs and then exiting the labor market frequently to have children. Persons reporting literacy/numeracy problems tended to have poorer self-images and less success in achieving educational progress and occupational success. (Thirty-four tables/figures are included. Appended are information on the survey sample, interview questions, and literacy and numeracy assessment instrument.) (MN)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAdult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit
Commissioning bodyAdult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit
Number of pages121
ISBN (Electronic)1-870741-80-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1994


  • adult literacy
  • basic skills
  • reading
  • education work relationship
  • educational attainment
  • employment patterns
  • family characteristics
  • foreign countries
  • longitudinal studies
  • national surveys
  • numeracy
  • questionnaires
  • tables (data)
  • young adults

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