Adult Education and Lifelong Learning

As part of this substudy conducted by the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), data on educational and professional careers as well as on competence acquisition across adult life courses are being collected.
In order to be able to study adult education, the entire spectrum of educational activities and learning processes (formal, nonformal, and informal), and decisions resulting in their participation, as well as the respondents' previous life course (especially the course of education and occupation, relationships, and children) are recorded in detail. Similar to the lack of knowledge concerning adult education in Germany, very little information is available on competencies and their changes after school. This is why this substudy collects data on competencies in reading, mathematics, sciences, and ICT literacy as well as data on noncognitive skills (such as personality, motivation, and social skills).


The data should enable researchers to

  • trace the aquisition of education across the adult life course and to follow the course of education and employment of younger cohorts after their job entry;
  • study why individuals decide to participate or not to participate in formal or nonformal learning activities after their initial vocational training;
  • describe the competencies of different groups of adults in Germany and to explain competence development in adulthood as well as the importance of the employment situation in this context;
  • analyze the impact of specific educational contexts in adult life, especially that of the employment situation and family constellation, on educational choices and participation in further training;
  • estimate the returns of formal qualifications, competencies, and professional experience in terms of wages, occupational careers, and in other areas of life (e.g., well-being or volunteer work);
  • generate empirical results on competencies of migrants, their resources, their participation in and returns from further training;
  • identify opportunities and obstacles for learning processes and education in later adult life.
The field time of the adult survey already started in 2007, that is, prior to the foundation of the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). The adult survey 2007/08 was conducted by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) under the name of “Working and Learning in a Changing World” (ALWA). After that, the data collection of the adult survey continued under the umbrella of the NEPS from November 2009 to June 2010. This was followed by annual follow-up surveys. In the fourth survey wave in 2011/12 the sample survey was conducted once again to acquire new respondents.

With special contributions by Stage 8 and Pillars 1-5.

Starting Cohort Adults

Sequence Design

Starting Cohort Adults in the Multicohort Sequence Design

Additional Information

In June 2011, the special issue of the “Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaften” (ZfE) “Education as a Lifelong Process – The German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS)" was published. In 20 chapters, this book gives an overview of the NEPS. Click here to find a flyer about the book.

More information about the book is available here:

Education as a Lifelong Process - The German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS)