Return on Investment for Adult Basic Education: Existing Evidence and Future Directions

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4 Scopus citations


Amidst diminishing federal investment in Adult Basic Education (ABE), there is growing interest in return on investment (ROI) as an economic rationale to support ABE funding. Against this backdrop, we provide an overview of the ROI concept and methods and the empirical evidence on ABE program impacts to broaden the discourse among practitioners and advocates. We point out that the most crucial building blocks necessary for ROI estimations are missing in the literature. We contextualize the current status of the literature by discussing challenges in ABE program evaluations and limitations in ROI methods. We then further our discussions by offering a recommendation for ROI estimation and alternative approaches to ROI. We conclude by calling for an expanded public discourse, beyond ROI, on the social benefits of funding ABE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-372
Number of pages17
JournalAdult Education Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


  • California’s Greater Avenues for Independence
  • National Evaluation of Adult Education Programs
  • adult basic education
  • return on investment
  • the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning


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