Indicator A6. How are social outcomes related to education?

More and more everyday activities are moving on line, and access to the Internet has become essential in the digital age. On average across OECD countries participating in the EU Survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals (EU-ICT), 93% of households reported having access to the Internet in 2021 or the most recent year data were available. This share does not vary much across countries: ranging from 85% in Greece to 99% in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. Countries not covered by the EU-ICT survey also show comparable level of Internet access within households: 84% in Israel, 89% in the United States and 95% in Canada (Table A6.1).

The share of 25-54 year-olds using the Internet at least once a week tends to increase with educational attainment. In 2021, among OECD countries taking part in EU-ICT, this share averaged 85% among those with below upper secondary attainment, 96% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment and 99% among tertiary-educated adults. National data collected in Canada and Israel follow the same pattern. The Internet usage gap between tertiary attainment and upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment was less than 10 percentage points in all OECD countries with available data. The difference between below upper secondary attainment and upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment is clearer, exceeding 20 percentage points in Greece, Poland and the Slovak Republic, although it is below 5 percentage points in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway (Figure A6.1).

The difference in Internet use by educational attainment is more significant among 55-74 year-olds than among 25-54 year-olds. On average across OECD countries taking part in EU-ICT, 57% of 55-74 year-olds with only below upper secondary attainment used the Internet at least once a week in 2021. The share increases to 80% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment, and reaches 95% among those with tertiary attainment (Table A6.1).

For the younger population the situation is very different and there is almost no variation by educational attainment. Almost all 16-24 year-olds use the Internet at least once week in all countries participating in EU-ICT, regardless of educational attainment. Israel is the only country where the difference between 16-24 year-olds with below upper secondary attainment (79%) and those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment (97%) exceeds 10 percentage points (Table A6.1).

The Internet’s potential for social connections could be particularly important for the elderly. Increasing life expectancy and changes in living patterns are leading to widespread social isolation and loneliness among older people, which is an issue of growing concern. Isolation and loneliness can have serious consequences for physical and mental health (WHO, 2021[3]). For older adults, one option for keeping socially connected in the digital age is to make online telephone or video calls. Older adults with high levels of educational attainment make greater use of the Internet to connect to others than their lower-educated peers. On average across OECD countries participating in EU-ICT, 20% of 55-74 year-olds with below upper secondary attainment made telephone or video calls over the Internet in 2019, compared to 35% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment and 52% among those with tertiary attainment. The same pattern is observed in Canada, Israel and the United States (Figure A6.2 and Table A6.2).

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of the Internet for telephone or video calls among all 55-74 year-olds. Many countries imposed social distancing measures and lockdowns since the outbreak of the pandemic. The barriers to face-to-face contacts compounded the feeling of loneliness and lack of connectedness. But the extent to which older adults have made use of these opportunities offered by the Internet to stay connected has also varied with educational attainment. On average across OECD countries taking part in EU-ICT, by 2021, the share of 55-74 year-olds making online telephone or video calls had increased to 34% among those with below upper secondary attainment, 51% among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment and 71% among those with tertiary attainment. Portugal, which had below-average share of older tertiary-educated adults making such calls in 2019, recorded the greatest increases among this group between 2019 and 2021, of over 30 percentage points (Figure A6.2 and Table A6.2).

In most OECD countries with available trend data, except in Finland, Latvia and Spain, the share of 55-74 year-olds making telephone or video calls over the Internet increased steadily between 2019 and 2021. For 55-74 year-olds at all levels of educational attainment, the share peaked in 2020 and fell back slightly in 2021 in Finland and Spain. While in Latvia, the share decreased between 2019 and 2020, but increased in 2021 (Table A6.2).

The ongoing digital transformation is affecting people’s lives across many dimensions, and older people with higher educational attainment seem to enjoy greater benefits from digitalisation.

Box A6.1 looks at older adults’ use of the Internet to seek health-related information.

While containment measures have restricted economic activities, the rapid expansion of teleworking has helped maintain some jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Box A6.2 details how remote working evolved during the pandemic across countries and attainment levels.

Parents can help their children develop the skills and attitudes needed to thrive in the interconnected world. Using data from the PISA 2018 Global Competence questionnaire, this section analyses how their mothers’ educational attainment influences students’ interest in learning about other cultures and attitudes towards immigrants. This is the first time that the breakdown by mother’s educational attainment has been published.

The PISA 2018 Global Competence questionnaire module asked 15-year-old students to respond to the following four statements: “I want to learn how people live in different countries”; “I want to learn more about the religions of the world”; “I am interested in how people from various cultures see the world”; and “I am interested in finding out about the traditions of other cultures”. The five response categories were “not at all like me”, “not much like me”, “somewhat like me”, “mostly like me” and “very much like me”. These statements were combined to create the index of students’ interest in learning about other cultures, with positive values indicate that students exhibited a greater interest in learning about other cultures than the average student across the OECD.

The greatest levels of interest in learning about different cultures were reported by 15-year-old students in the Republic of Türkiye, while those in Italy and the Slovak Republic reported the lowest (Table A6.3). In nearly all OECD and partner countries and other participants, students’ interest in learning about other cultures is positively related to their mothers’ educational attainment. In some countries, such as Australia, Estonia, France, Iceland, Ireland and Latvia, it was only the students with tertiary-educated mothers who expressed more curiosity about other cultures than the average of all students from OECD countries and economies. Italy was the only country with below-average interest among students in learning about other cultures where mother’s educational attainment made almost no difference (Figure A6.5).

Among the four statements used to assess students’ interest in learning about other cultures, there seems to be a distinction between students’ response to the concepts of culture and of religion, as religion might be a more sensitive notion than culture (OECD, 2020[7]). On average across OECD countries and economies, more than 50% of students reported that they would like to learn how people live in different countries, about the perspectives of people from various cultures and to find out about the traditions of other cultures. In contrast, only 40% expressed an interest in learning about the religions of the world. Unlike with the three culture-related questions, students with tertiary-educated mothers were not always the ones who reported greatest interest in learning about other religions. In Austria, Canada, Greece, Israel, Italy, Scotland (United Kingdom), Slovenia and Switzerland, students whose mother attained below upper secondary education reported the greatest interest in learning about other religions (Table A6.4, available on line).

Many countries have seen the size of their immigrant population increase in recent years, with the war in Ukraine contributing to this trend. On average across OECD countries, in 2020, almost one-fifth of 25-64 year-olds were not born in the country where they currently live. Students’ attitudes towards immigrants are therefore becoming crucial to creating cohesive and harmonious societies.

The PISA 2018 Global Competence questionnaire assessed students’ attitude towards immigrants through their responses to the following statements: “Immigrant children should have the same opportunities for education that other children in the country have”, “Immigrants who live in a country for several years should have the opportunity to vote in elections”, “Immigrants should have the opportunity to continue their own customs and lifestyle”, and “Immigrants should have all the same rights that everyone else in the country has”. Reponses were provided on a four-point scale: “strongly disagree”, “disagree”, “agree” and “strongly agree”. An index measuring overall attitudes towards immigrants is derived from these four statements, with a positive value indicating that students have more positive attitudes towards immigrants than the average student across OECD countries and other participants.

Students in Canada, Korea and Portugal reported the most positive attitudes towards immigrants, while those in Hungary had the least positive attitudes. Notably, there is no clear association between the share of foreign-born adults and students’ attitudes towards immigrants. For instance, in Switzerland, 37% of 25-64 year-olds are foreign-born, but students do not report more positive attitudes than the average student across the OECD. In contrast, Portugal has relatively low share of foreign-born adults (11%), but students reported the most positive attitudes towards immigrants (Table A6.3).

While mother’s educational attainment plays a positive role in their children’s overall attitudes towards immigrants, the relationship becomes less conclusive when looking at the answers to individual statements. In 17 out of 30 OECD and partner countries and other participants with available data, students with tertiary-educated mothers were the most likely to be positive about the right to education for immigrants’ children. Where the questions touched on issues related to identity or political rights, maternal educational attainment did not have a clear effect. However, in general there was a wider range of responses to these statements than to other statements (Table A6.5, available on line).

As well as social tolerance towards different cultures and people with different backgrounds, students in this interconnected world are expected to take more active role in promoting collective well-being and sustainable development. “Global mindedness” is used here to explore students’ interest in and sense of agency over global issues, and is related to individuals’ ability to fit into the world and their sense of responsibility about engaging with global challenges.

The PISA 2018 Global Competence questionnaire asked students the extent to which they agree (“strongly disagree”, “disagree”, “agree” or “strongly agree”) with the following statements: “I think of myself as a citizen of the world”, “When I see the poor conditions that some people live under, I feel a responsibility to do something about it”, “I think my behaviour can impact people in other countries”, “It is right to boycott companies that are known to provide poor workplace conditions for their employees”, “I can do something about the problems of the world” and “Looking after the global environment is important to me”. Positive values in this index indicate that students have a greater sense of global mindedness than the average students across OECD countries and economies.

According to the index created out of their self-reported answers, students in Costa Rica, Korea, Portugal, Spain and Türkiye have the highest sense of global mindedness, while those in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and the Slovak Republic have the lowest (Table A6.3). Students seemed to be more uncertain about whether they could make a difference to general challenges than to specific issues. On average across OECD countries, students were less likely to give positive answers to the two broad statements – “I think my behaviour can impact people in other countries” and “I can do something about the problems of the world” – than to the other statements. This holds true for all countries and other participants except Colombia and Costa Rica, where students are the least likely to give positive answers to the statement “It is right to boycott companies that are known to provide poor workplace conditions for their employees” (Figure A6.6 and Table A6.6, available on line).

In all OECD and partner countries and other economies except Italy, students with tertiary-educated mothers had the strongest sense of global mindedness (Table A6.3). However, the extent to which maternal educational attainment positively influenced students’ attitudes to global issues differs for different statements. For instance, in all the countries and other PISA participants covered by EAG except the Slovak Republic, students with tertiary-educated mothers were the most likely to agree or strongly agree that they can do something about the problems of the world. In contrast, in 12 countries and other participants, it was not the students with tertiary-educated mothers who were most likely to agree or strongly agree that they feel a responsibility to do something about the poor conditions that some people in the world live under (Table A6.6, available on line).

Age groups: Adults refer to 25-64 year-olds.

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education successfully completed by an individual.

Levels of education: See the Reader’s Guide at the beginning of this publication for a presentation of all ISCED 2011 levels.

The previous classification, ISCED-97, is used for the analyses based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA): Below upper secondary corresponds to ISCED-97 levels 0, 1, 2 and 3C short programs; upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary corresponds to ISCED-97 levels 3A, 3B, 3C long programmes and level 4; and tertiary corresponds to ISCED-97 levels 5A, 5B and 6.

Tables A6.1, A6.2 and Table A6.7, available on line, combine data from different sources which could compromise cross-country comparability in certain cases. Refer to table footnotes and Annex 3 for more country-specific information.

More information on the construction of indices in PISA are available at: https://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/pisa2018technicalreport/PISA2018_Technical-Report-Chapter-16-Background-Questionnaires.pdf.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[8]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/EAG2022_X3-A.pdf).

  • For Table A6.1 (Internet use, by educational attainment and age group): the EU Survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals (EU-ICT) for European OECD member countries; the Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) for Canada; the Social Survey for Israel; and the American Community Survey (ACS) for the United States.

  • For Table A6.2 (Trends in the use of the Internet for different activities among 55-74 year-olds, by educational attainment): EU-ICT survey for European OECD member countries; the CIUS for Canada; the Social Survey for Israel; and the Current Population Survey (CPS), Computer and Internet Use supplement for the United States.

  • For Table A6.3 (Students' social tolerance, by mother’s educational attainment), A6.4 (Students’ interest in learning about other cultures, by mother’s educational attainment), A6.5 (Students’ attitudes towards immigrants, by mother’s educational attainment) and A6.6 (Students’ global mindedness, by mother’s educational attainment): the PISA Global Competence questionnaire.

  • For Table A6.7 (Percentage of adults working from home, by age group and educational attainment): the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) or national LFS for European OECD member countries, Canada and Israel; the Continuous Employment Survey for Costa Rica; and the CPS for the United States.

References

[2] Brennan, J. et al. (2015), “The effects of higher education on graduates attitudes: Secondary analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey”, BIS Research Paper, No. 200, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/id/eprint/24684.

[5] OECD (2021), Health at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ae3016b9-en.

[4] OECD (2020), Combatting COVID-19 disinformation on online platforms, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/d854ec48-en.

[7] OECD (2020), PISA 2018 Results (Volume VI): Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World?, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/d5f68679-en.

[6] OECD (2020), “Productivity gains from teleworking in the post COVID-19 era: How can public policies make it happen?”, OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19), OECD Publishing, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/productivity-gains-from-teleworking-in-the-post-covid-19-era-a5d52e99/ (accessed on 10 February 2022).

[1] OECD (2019), How’s Life in the Digital Age?: Opportunities and Risks of the Digital Transformation for People’s Well-being, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264311800-en.

[8] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264304444-en.

[3] WHO (2021), “Social isolation and loneliness among older people”, Advocacy Brief, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240030749.

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