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First published online February 3, 2016

The Influence of Social Background on Participation in Adult Education: Applying the Cultural Capital Framework

Abstract

In this article, we address the issue of participation in adult education building on the cultural capital framework. This theoretical framework suggests that (educational) practices are affected by one’s social background and, more precisely, by the cultural resources handed down in the family context. To examine the validity of this theoretical framework, we build on data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies from 23 countries (n = 120,789). The Programme data allow using the variables parents’ educational level (a proxy for social background), educational attainment, and readiness to learn as precursors of participation in adult education (both a proxy for cultural capital). Our findings suggest that the cultural capital framework is not fully suited to explain participation in adult education: Although social background has an (indirect) influence on participation, its effect does not concur with theoretical predictions, that is, mediated by the readiness to learn.

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Appendices

Appendix A. Correlation Matrix, by Country.a
CountryVariable1234
Austria1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.371.00  
3. Readiness to learn.20.281.00 
4. Participation in adult education.22.37.291.00
Belgium (Flanders)1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.431.00  
3. Readiness to learn.23.321.00 
4. Participation in adult education.29.44.281.00
Canada1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.351.00  
3. Readiness to learn.14.211.00 
4. Participation in adult education.29.37.211.00
Cyprus, Republic of1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.431.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.301.00 
4. Participation in adult education.28.50.261.00
Czech Republic1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.371.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.251.00 
4. Participation in adult education.19.36.211.00
Denmark1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.351.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.271.00 
4. Participation in adult education.21.38.221.00
Estonia1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.321.00  
3. Readiness to learn.27.331.00 
4. Participation in adult education.30.43.371.00
Finland1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.331.00  
3. Readiness to learn.11.211.00 
4. Participation in adult education.28.46.251.00
France1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.441.00  
3. Readiness to learn.19.271.00 
4. Participation in adult education.24.40.201.00
Germany1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.391.00  
3. Readiness to learn.21.271.00 
4. Participation in adult education.25.39.251.00
Great Britainb1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.331.00  
3. Readiness to learn.18.241.00 
4. Participation in adult education.23.28.211.00
Ireland1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.411.00  
3. Readiness to learn.14.251.00 
4. Participation in adult education.23.43.201.00
Italy1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.491.00  
3. Readiness to learn.22.351.00 
4. Participation in adult education.28.48.291.00
Japan1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.381.00  
3. Readiness to learn.15.231.00 
4. Participation in adult education.20.34.281.00
Korea1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.381.00  
3. Readiness to learn.21.331.00 
4. Participation in adult education.25.45.331.00
Netherlands1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.361.00  
3. Readiness to learn.24.331.00 
4. Participation in adult education.26.39.301.00
Norway1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.341.00  
3. Readiness to learn.18.211.00 
4. Participation in adult education.26.36.181.00
Poland1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.481.00  
3. Readiness to learn.27.371.00 
4. Participation in adult education.41.53.351.00
Russia1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.381.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.341.00 
4. Participation in adult education.17.28.231.00
Slovak Republic1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.491.00  
3. Readiness to learn.28.381.00 
4. Participation in adult education.34.45.281.00
Spain1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.391.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.311.00 
4. Participation in adult education.25.48.271.00
Sweden1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.341.00  
3. Readiness to learn.19.201.00 
4. Participation in adult education.24.37.251.00
United States1. Parents’ education1.00   
2. Educational attainment.451.00  
3. Readiness to learn.16.281.00 
4. Participation in adult education.34.47.251.00
a
Correlation coefficients for “Participation in adult education” are biserial correlation coefficients. bIn Great Britain, only England and Northern Ireland participated in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey.
Appendix B. Direct and Indirect Effects of Parents’ Education and Educational Attainment on Participation in Adult Education, as a Percentage of Total Effect, by Country.
CountryVariableTypeMediatorΒSEβ%a
AustriaParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03***.01.0214
 ED. AT. → RDL.03***.00.0211
 ED. AT..18***.01.1275
Total .24***.02.16 
Educational attainmentDirect .12***.01.3287
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0513
Total .14***.00.37 
Belgium (Flanders)Parents’ educationIndirectRDL.02***.01.027
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.028
 ED. AT..24***.02.1985
Total .29***.02.22 
Educational attainmentDirect .14***.01.4191
IndirectRDL.01***.00.049
Total .16***.01.45 
CanadaParents’ educationIndirectRDL.02***.00.018
 ED. AT. → RDL.01***.00.016
 ED. AT..17***.01.1386
Total .19***.01.15 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3594
IndirectRDL.01***.00.026
Total .14***.01.37 
Cyprus, Republic ofParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01.00.012
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.027
 ED. AT..29***.02.2191
Total .32***.02.23 
Educational attainmentDirect .15***.01.4694
IndirectRDL.01***.00.036
Total .16***.01.50 
Czech RepublicParents’ educationIndirectRDL.02**.01.017
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.01.018
 ED. AT..24***.02.1285
Total .28***.02.14 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3292
IndirectRDL.01***.00.038
Total .14***.01.35 
DenmarkParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01***.00.016
 ED. AT. → RDL.01***.00.017
 ED. AT..16***.01.1387
Total .19***.01.15 
Educational attainmentDirect .14***.01.3593
IndirectRDL.01***.00.037
Total .15***.01.38 
EstoniaParents’ educationIndirectRDL.06***.01.0526
 ED. AT. → RDL.03***.00.0211
 ED. AT..16***.01.1263
Total .25***.01.19 
Educational attainmentDirect .14***.01.3684
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0715
Total .16***.01.42 
FinlandParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01**.00.015
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.016
 ED. AT..22***.02.1589
Total .24***.02.17 
Educational attainmentDirect .14***.01.4494
IndirectRDL.01***.00.037
Total .15***.01.47 
FranceParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01***.00.015
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.016
 ED. AT..24***.01.1790
Total .26***.01.19 
Educational attainmentDirect .10***.00.3895
IndirectRDL.01***.00.025
Total .11***.00.40 
GermanyParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03.01.0211
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.018
 ED. AT..22***.02.1482
Total .27***.02.17 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3591
IndirectRDL.01***.00.039
Total .14***.01.38 
Great BritainbParents’ educationIndirectRDL.02**.01.017
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.017
 ED. AT..18***.03.1386
Total .21***.03.16 
Educational attainmentDirect .15***.02.3293
IndirectRDL.01***.00.037
Total .16***.02.34 
IrelandParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01*.00.012
 ED. AT. → RDL.01***.00.015
 ED. AT..23***.02.1893
Total .25***.02.19 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.4195
IndirectRDL.01***.00.025
Total .13***.01.43 
ItalyParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01*.01.013
 ED. AT. → RDL.04***.01.028
 ED. AT..42***.03.2289
Total .47***.02.25 
Educational attainmentDirect .11***.01.4491
IndirectRDL.01***.00.049
Total .13***.01.48 
JapanParents’ educationIndirectRDL.02***.01.0211
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.0211
 ED. AT..16***.01.1277
Total .20***.02.15 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3087
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0413
Total .15***.01.34 
KoreaParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03***.01.0210
 ED. AT. → RDL.03***.00.0212
 ED. AT..22***.01.1579
Total .28***.01.20 
Educational attainmentDirect .12***.01.3987
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0613
Total .14***.01.45 
NetherlandsParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03***.01.0316
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.0211
 ED. AT..16***.01.1272
Total .21***.01.17 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3387
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0514
Total .15***.01.38 
NorwayParents’ educationIndirectRDL.02**.01.019
 ED. AT. → RDL.01***.00.014
 ED. AT..16***.01.1286
Total .18***.01.14 
Educational attainmentDirect .14***.01.3495
IndirectRDL.01***.00.025
Total .14***.01.36 
PolandParents’ educationIndirectRDL.04***.01.027
 ED. AT. → RDL.05***.01.039
 ED. AT..40***.03.2483
Total .48***.03.29 
Educational attainmentDirect .16***.01.4890
IndirectRDL.02***.00.0510
Total .18***.01.53 
RussiaParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01*.01.015
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.01.0215
 ED. AT..13***.03.0980
Total .16***.03.12 
Educational attainmentDirect .07***.01.2484
IndirectRDL.01***.00.0516
Total .09***.01.28 
Slovak RepublicParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03***.01.026
 ED. AT. → RDL.03***.01.028
 ED. AT..35***.02.2186
Total .41***.02.24 
 Educational attainmentDirect .15***.01.4192
  IndirectRDL.01***.00.048
  Total .17***.01.45 
SpainParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01***.00.013
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.027
 ED. AT..27***.01.1890
Total .31***.01.20 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.4593
IndirectRDL.01***.00.047
Total .14***.00.48 
SwedenParents’ educationIndirectRDL.03***.01.0317
 ED. AT. → RDL.01***.00.016
 ED. AT..14***.01.1277
Total .18***.01.16 
Educational attainmentDirect .13***.01.3493
IndirectRDL.01***.00.037
Total .14***.01.37 
United StatesParents’ educationIndirectRDL.01**.00.012
 ED. AT. → RDL.02***.00.016
 ED. AT..30***.02.2191
Total .33***.02.23 
Educational attainmentDirect .15***.01.4594
IndirectRDL.01***.00.036
Total .16***.01.48 
Note. RDL = readiness to learn; ED. AT. = educational attainment; ED. AT RDL = path from educational attainment to readiness to learn.
a
As a percentage of the total effect. bIn Great Britain, only England and Northern Ireland participated in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey.
*
p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

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Biographies

Sebastiano Cincinnato is a PhD candidate currently working at the Department of Educational Sciences (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and affiliated to the Department of Educational Studies (Ghent University, Belgium). His research focuses on participation and study success in adult and higher education.
Bram De Wever, PhD, is an associate professor at the Department of Educational Studies (Ghent University), where he teaches a course on adult education. His research is focusing on technology enhanced learning and instruction, peer assessment and feedback, computer-supported collaborative learning activities, blended learning, and inquiry learning in higher education and adult education settings.
Hilde Van Keer is Professor at the Department of Educational Studies (Ghent University, Belgium). In her work, she focuses on three main themes: (1) peer learning, with an emphasis on peer and student tutoring; (2) reading and writing education, with an emphasis on teaching writing, reading comprehension and reading motivation; and (3) self-regulated learning in pupils and higher education students.
Martin Valcke is currently head of the Department of Educational Studies (Ghent University; Belgium). His main research field is the innovation of higher education with a strong emphasis on the integrated use of information and communication technologies, quality indicators, collaborative learning, and innovative assessment and evaluation approaches.

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Article first published online: February 3, 2016
Issue published: May 2016

Keywords

  1. participation in adult education
  2. social background
  3. cultural capital
  4. cultural reproduction
  5. cultural mobility
  6. PIAAC

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History

Published online: February 3, 2016
Issue published: May 2016

Authors

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Sebastiano Cincinnato
Bram De Wever
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Hilde Van Keer
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Martin Valcke
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Notes

Sebastiano Cincinnato, Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium. Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

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