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Gender differences in adult numeracy: a comparative study

Cook, Rose; (2018) Gender differences in adult numeracy: a comparative study. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis presents a comparative study of gender differences in adult numeracy in 20 OECD countries. It explores the ways in which the widespread male advantage in adult numeracy is associated with gender relations. Gender relations are measured in terms of gender differences in power and status, the gender division of paid and unpaid labour, and gender culture. The thesis uses quantitative secondary analysis of data from the OECD’s 2012 Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which provides direct measures of adults’ numeracy skills. The analysis proceeds from an original theoretical framework which combines insights from life course research on the determinants of skills in adulthood, as well as integrating feminist theory of multidimensional gender relations. At the individual level, the results demonstrate that female advances in education do not necessarily equalise adult numeracy. Women’s participation in the labour market is also not enough to guarantee equal levels of adult numeracy: women must also be able to access occupations that use numeracy skills. Cross-nationally, there is no obvious empirical relationship between gender inequality, conventionally conceived, and the gender difference in adult numeracy. Instead, paradoxically, gender differences in adult numeracy are larger in societies that combine egalitarianism with gender segregation in the labour market, and smaller in countries with relatively inequitable gender relations. Overall, there is little evidence that gender differences in adult numeracy are associated with conventional indicators of gender inequality in this sample of countries. The thesis thereby questions the findings of previous research and suggests that instead of being framed as an outcome of female disempowerment, gender differences in adult numeracy should be understood in relation to the multidimensionality of gender relations in post-industrial societies.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Gender differences in adult numeracy: a comparative study
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10055384
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