The Long-Term Impact of ABS Program Participation on Voting
This report utilizes Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) data to examine long-term impacts of Adult Basic Skills (ABS) program participation on voting.
The Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) compared adult literacy development among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time to provide a life-wide and lifelong perspective on adult literacy development and a better assessment of program impact on a range of outcome measures. LSAL randomly sampled about 1,000 high school dropouts and followed them for nearly a decade from 1998–2007. LSAL followed both participants and nonparticipants in Adult Basic Skills (ABS) programs, assessing their literacy skills and skill uses over long periods of time, along with changes in their social, educational, and economic status, offering a rich picture of adult literacy development.
Research Question: This report, the fifth of a series of Research Briefs that utilize LSAL data to examine long-term impacts of ABS program participation on a range of outcome measures, considers the following research question: What is the impact of participating in an ABS program on subsequent voting behavior?
Results: An impact of ABS program participation on voting behavior should be reflected in changes in voting rates between the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections that are associated with ABS program participation between the elections. The self-reported voting data provide little evidence, however, of an impact of ABS program participation on voting. Although the analysis conducted shows a larger increase in voting rates over time for program participants than for nonparticipants, the difference does not approach statistical significance.
Limitations: A relatively small subsample size was available for analysis of voting data. The corresponding loss of statistical power increases the likelihood of failing to detect an actual impact of participation on voting behavior. Another methodological limitation is the nature of the outcome variable used—self-reported voting. In validation studies of self-reported voting, individuals tend to overreport voting when it is seen as socially desirable. LSAL data did not provide the ability to validate self-reported voting against administrative records as was done with other self-reported outcomes in other Briefs in this series.
Although ABS program evaluation and accountability reports typically show small gains for program participants in test scores and other outcomes, these studies rarely include comparison groups of nonparticipants, and most studies that do include such controls have not found statistically significant ABS program impact. Research is needed that compares long-term outcomes among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time to provide a life-wide and lifelong perspective on adult literacy development, and a better assessment of program impact on a range of outcome measures.
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