analyze the programme for the international assessment of adult competencies (piaac) with r

August 19, 2014

(This article was first published on asdfree by anthony damico, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

heaven knows we’ve all been there: you’re in a heated argument with some patriotic zealot who thinks (insert country here) has the best labor force on earth.  you know they’re just spewing made-up-statistic after made-up-statistic, but you don’t have hard examples of your own to counter their ignorance.  hit the pause button on that nation altercation, because now you do!  the organisation for economic co-operation and development (oecd) has released round one of the programme for the international assessment of adult competencies (piaac), a golden goose of cross-national comparison data regarding working-age adults.  they have a three minute intro, you should watch the three minute intro.  if you like what you see, read these four pages of key facts.  this is the appropriate microdata for serious study of advanced-economy labor markets. and also for debate winners.

following the footsteps of its older cousin – the program for international student assessment (pisa) – the piaac survey administrators at oecd and participating countries publish only a nightmarish tangle of custom sas (groan) and stata (gasp) macros for you to learn and implement for the sake of just one public-use survey.  why does bad software happen to good people?  rather than spending all your time translating ancient greek and all your money on proprietary statistical products, you can use the r survey package and buy me a drink.  this new github repository contains three scripts:

download import and design.R

analysis examples.R


  • load the survey design for austria and belgium into working memory.  because, you know, the alphabet.
  • match statistics and standard errors provided by oecd on not one but two tabs of this excel table
  • for loop through every country to hit the stats and standard errors provided by oecd on pdf page 48 of this pdf table

click here to view these three scripts

for more detail about the programme for the international assessment of adult competencies (piaac), visit:


while preparing your own analysis, you’ll surely need the (fantastic) codebook.  aside from that, idk what else to say..  oecd supports only lousy statistical languages to analyze their marvelous data; now you can use a powerful programming language to analyze the same rich data set.  i suppose if you’re bored, you could take the piaac test yourself.

confidential to sas, spss, stata, and sudaan users: maybe it’s time you join the subphylum vertebrata of the statistical software kingdom.  maybe it’s time to transition to r. 😀

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