Stability and Change in Adult Competencies (SCACOM)

Patterns and Precursors of Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skill Development


Dr. Clemens Lechner


Dr. Britta Gauly
Dr. Ai Miyamoto


In the light of globalization, technological progress, and

demographic ageing, continuing education and professional development

over the entire lifespan are crucial to meet the changing skill

requirements of today's labor market. However, little is known about how

competencies such as literacy (i.e., the ability to understand and apply information from written texts) and numeracy

(i.e., the ability to understand and apply mathematical information)

that are needed to function effectively in today’s societies develop

during adulthood. Even less is known about the potential drivers of

gains and losses in adult competencies. Moreover, the existing evidence

is predominantly cross-sectional.

The advent of two recent German large-scale panel studies – the

National Educational Panel Study (NEPS, Starting Cohort 6 – Adults) and

the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competency with

its longitudinal extension (PIAAC-L) – offers a unique opportunity to

fill this empirical void. Both NEPS and PIAAC-L offer repeated measures

of reading competence (literacy) and mathematical competence (numeracy),

covering six (three) years of adulthood. Harnessing the potential both

these data sources, our project aims to shed light on three fundamental

questions about adult competency development:

(1) How stable or malleable are competencies during adulthood, and

does their plasticity differ across sociodemographic subgroups?

(2) What are the factors that shape lifelong learning processes? Our

focus will be on occupational factors such as patterns of labor market

participation, skill use on the job, and participation in continuing

education and training.

(3) Which individual factors co-shape competency development? We will

examine whether prior educational attainment, initial competency

levels, and non-cognitive skills (i.e., personality traits such as

Openness to Experience) predict gains and losses in adult competencies;

and whether they moderate the effects of the occupational factors



2018-04-01 – 2020-03-31