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International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), Germany

Resource Type
Dataset : Survey and aggregate data
Publication Date
  • Lehmann, Rainer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) (Researcher)
  • GFM-GETAS, Gesellschaft für Marketing-, Kommunikation- und Sozialforschung mbH, Hamburg (Data Collector)
  • ZA:
    • Work and Industry
    • Occupation, Profession
    • Income
    • Education, School Systems
    • Leisure
  • CESSDA Topic Classification:
    • Labour and employment
    • Education
    • Basic skills education
    • Life-long/continuing education
    • Cultural activities and participation
    • Social conditions and indicators
  • Abstract

    The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) measured proficiency on three scales: prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy. In addition, also background information of participants were assessed: general information (e.g., age, sex, country of birth, language); education (e.g., highest educational achievement, current education, participation in training); current status and work history; current and recent work (e.g., profession, self-employment, and income); skill use (Literacy, Numeracy) at work. Background questionnaire: 1. General information: born in Germany; country of birth; highest level of schooling before immigration (ISCED); years of formal education completed; highest level of schooling completed (ISCED); second level program (academic/college preparatory, bunisiness (commercial) or trade/vorcational); reasons why the respondent stopped schooling; first language (mother tongue); forein language skills; language spoken at home; language in which the respondent can express himself most easily; information on respondent´s parents: born in Germany, highest level of schooling; 2. Information on current and recent employment: current work situation; employed in the past 12 months; year last worked; number of different employers in the past 12 months; full-time or part-time employment; reasons for working part-time; Major Heading International Standard Industrial Classification for the respondent’s primary employment(ISICR); Major Heading International Standard Classification of Occupations for the respondent’s primary occupation (ISCOR); size of business; employment status; hours worked per week; during the past 12 months: number of week worked at all jobs; wanted to work in the weeks without work; reasons why the respondent did not want to work; 3. Reading and writing at work: skill use at work (Literacy: e.g. letters or memos, reports, articles, magazines or journal, etc.); write or fill out as part of main job (letters or memos, forms or things such as bills, invoices, or budgets, reports or articles, estimates or technical specifications); use mathematics as part of main job (measure or estimate the size or weight of objects, caluculate prices, costs or budgets); self-rating of reading skills, and writing skills in German; extent of limitation of job opportunities by reading skills, and writing skills in German; rating of mathematical skills for the main job; extent of limitation of job opportunities by mathematical skills. 4. Adult education and training: training or education since August 1994; number of courses in the past 12 months; major field of study (up to three courses); training or education was financially supported by the respondent himself or his family, by an employer, the government, etc.; intended aim of these training courses (e.g. a university degree/ diploma/ certificate, a trade-vocational diploma, etc.); provider of this training or education; weeks the course(s) lasted; number of days per week; main reason for course particiaption; extent of using the skills or knowledge acquired in this training or education at work; suggestion to take this cours(es) by the respondent himself, by friends or family, employer, other employees, etc.; training or education was provided through: classroom instructions, seminars or workshops, educational software, etc. 5. Reading and writing general: frequency of activities (use a public library, attend a movie, play or concert, attend or take part in a sporting event, write e.g. letters more than one page in length, participate in volunteer or community organisations, reading newspapers or magazines, reading books, listening to radio, records, tapes cassettes or compact discs); hours per day watching television or videos; currently in the home: daily newspaper/magazines, weekly newspaper/magazines, more than 25 books, a multi-volume encyclopedia, a dictionary; frequency of how often the respondent needs help from others with reading newspaper articles, reading information from government agencies, filling out forms, reading instructions such as on medicine bottles, reading instructions on packaged goods in stores, doing basic arithmetic, and writing notes and letters; self-rating of skills needed in daily life: reading and writing skills in German as well as of mathematical skills; impairment by eye/visual trouble or/and a learning disability; problems occurred while the respondent were in primary or secondary school; impairments currently exist. 6. Household information: income sources (from wages, salary or self-employment, from government or state sources (social assistance or unemployment support), from government or state pensions, from interest, dividends, investment, property or private pensions, or from other sources); estimate of personal income from only wages, salary or self-emploment (quintiles); size of household; estimate of the total income of all household members (quintiles); Demography: sex; age. Additionally coded: country identification code; record identification number; language of background questionnaire; size of community rural/urban; survey pupulation weight; replicate weights; language of task bookletes; plausible values (for prose scale, for document scale, for quantitative scale); level for plausible values in prose scale, in document scale, in quantitative scale; prose level; document level; quantitative level; age of respondent (international groupings); country of birth recoded to continental groupings; year of immigration (grouped); highest level of schooling completed before first immigration to the country (ISCED); highest level of schooling the respondent has completed (ISCED); highest level of schooling the respondent has completed (ISCED grouped, corrected for Germany based on the correction process); main reason why the respondent stopped schooling; highest completed level of schooling of parents (ISCED); names (titles) of these courses or the program associated with these courses (major field of study).
Temporal Coverage
  • 1994-09 / 1994-12
Geographic Coverage
  • Germany (DE)
Sampled Universe
Persons between 16 and 65 years in private households
Probability: Multistage; Sampling Procedure Comment: Multistage, proportionally stratified systematic random selection of households in West- and East-Germany. For more details, please see Murray, Kirsch, & Jenkins (1998). Using systematic sampling, electoral districts are selected for the master samples with probability proportional to the number of households. The electoral districts are classified by region, district, community size, district council, quarter, and vote area. Two master samples (West- and East-Germany) of sampling points were used, with the selection of addresses being made using the random route method. At each of the 525 sampling points, a single random route of 23 addresses was followed, and in each of them nine addresses were selected. On each survey form, a random listing of the digits 1 - 9 was provided. The interviewer interviewed individuals designated by the first digit in that series which was less than or equal to the number of eligible individuals. In each household the interviewed person was selected by the Kish method.
Collection Mode
  • Face-to-face interview
  • Self-administered questionnaire: Paper
  • Background questionnaire: Face-to-face interview; Literacy: paper-based measurement (self-administered)
Data and File Information
  • Number of Variables: 281
C - Data and documents are only released for academic research and teaching after the data depositor’s written authorization. For this purpose the Data Archive obtains a written permission with specification of the user and the analysis intention.
All metadata from GESIS DBK are available free of restriction under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. However, GESIS requests that you actively acknowledge and give attribution to all metadata sources, such as the data providers and any data aggregators, including GESIS. For further information see
Alternative Identifiers
  • ZA6847 (Type: ZA-No.)
  • Thorn, W. (2009). International Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Surveys in the OECD Region. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 26. OECD Publishing.
  • OECD & Statistics Canada (1996). Literacy, economy and society: First results from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). Paris: OECD.
  • OECD & Statistics Canada (2000). Literacy in the information age. Final report of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). Paris: OECD.
  • Murray, T. S., Kirsch, I. S. & Jenkins, L. B. (1998). Adult literacy in OECD countries: Technical report on the First International Adult Literacy Survey. Washington, Dc: National Center for Education Statistics.
  • OECD & Statistics Canada (1995). Grundqualifikationen, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Ergebnisse der ersten internationalen Untersuchung von Grundqualifikationen Erwachsener. Paris: OECD.
  • Lehmann, R. H. (1997). Wie gut können Deutsche lesen? - Neue Untersuchungsergebnisse. In: Ring, K., von Trotha, K. & Voß, P. (Hrsg.): Lesen in der Informationsgesellschaft - Perspektiven der Medienkultur (S. 126-136). Baden-Baden.
  • Lehmann, R. & Peek, R. (1996). Wie gut können Deutsche lesen und rechnen. Universitas, 51 (10), 975-989.
  • Kirsch, I. (2001). The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS): Understanding what was measured. Research Report. Princeton: Educational Testing Service (ETS).
  • Kirsch, I. (2003). Measuring literacy in IALS: a construct-centered approach. International Journal of Educational Research, 39, 181-190.
  • Carey, S. (2000). Measuring Adult Literacy. The International Adult Literacy Survey in the European context. London: Office for National Statistics.

Update Metadata: 2020-10-21 | Issue Number: 15 | Registration Date: 2020-05-07

GESIS (2020): International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), Germany. Version: 1.0.0. GESIS Datenarchiv. Dataset.