Study on Education, Income and Lifelong Learning

March 30, 2016

Americans with higher levels of education and income are more likely to take advantage of lifelong learning opportunities such as reading a magazine, attending a conference or enrolling in an online course, a new Pew Research Center study found. The findings highlight the challenges ahead for online education initiatives that target disadvantaged students. Despite all the hype about massive open online courses, for example, only 18 percent of the survey respondents said they were very or somewhat familiar with Coursera, edX and other MOOC providers. About two-thirds of respondents said they were unfamiliar with MOOCs, online learning provider Khan Academy or digital badges, while nearly half (49 percent) were not familiar with distance learning in general.

Measured by level of income, learners who made less than $30,000 were less likely to get work-related training on the Internet (40 percent) compared to learners who made more than $75,000. The same pattern repeated itself when looking at level of education, with college graduates 24 percent more likely than high school graduates to receive online training.

More affluent learners also reported greater benefits from their training. Learners making more than $70,000 reported that extra training helped them advance within their current company (90 percent), find a new job (73 percent) or reconsider their career paths (69 percent). Learners who made less than $30,000 also reported benefits, though the responses came in a few percentage points lower.

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