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American Millennials among the world's least skilled people, says study

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Though the youngest Americans seem to be the most tech-savvy generation in history, their skill sets might not match up to the par set by their international peers.

Researchers at the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service administered a test, sponsored by the OECD, designed to measure the job skills of adults born after 1980, aged 16 to 65, in 23 different countries.

When they analyzed the results by age group and nationality, the results were shockingly bad for young Americans.

According to the study, despite the fact that American millennials are now the most educated generation ever, they scored far below their international peers in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE).

Top 5 scores in literacy:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Netherlands
4) Australia
5) Sweden

The United States placed at #17 out of 23.

Top 5 scores in numeracy:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Flanders (Belgium)
4) Netherlands
5) Sweden

The United States placed at #21 out of 23.

Top 5 scores in PS-TRE:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Australia
4) Sweden
5) Norway

The United States placed #18 out of 20.

In the executive summary of the study, researchers detailed some more interesting data correlations:

The average scores of U.S. millennials compared with those in other participating countries:

  • In literacy, U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 22 participating countries. Only millennials in Spain and Italy had lower scores.

  • In numeracy, U.S. millennials ranked last, along with Italy and Spain.

  • In PS-TRE, U.S. millennials also ranked last, along with the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland.

  • The youngest segment of the U.S. millennial cohort (16- to 24-year-olds), who could be in the labor force for the next 50 years, ranked last in numeracy along with Italy and among the bottom countries in PS-TRE. In literacy, they scored higher than their peers in Italy and Spain.


The top and lower performing U.S. millennials compared to international millennials:

  • Top-scoring U.S. millennials (those at the 90th percentile) scored lower than top-scoring millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries, and only scored higher than their peers in Spain.

  • Low-scoring U.S. millennials (those at the 10th percentile) ranked last along with Italy and England/Northern Ireland and scored lower than millennials in 19 participating countries.

  • The gap in scores (139 points) between U.S. millennials at the 90th and 10th percentiles was higher than the gap in 14 of the participating countries and was not significantly different than the gap in the remaining countries, signaling a high degree of inequality in the distribution of scores.


Demographic characteristics that had the most impact on U.S. millennials:

  • Among all countries, there was a strong relationship between parental levels of educational attainment and skills; across all levels of parental educational attainment, there was no country where millennials scored lower than those in the United States.

  • The gap in scores between U.S. millennials with the highest level of parental educational attainment and those with the lowest was among the largest of the participating countries.

  • In most countries, native-born millennials scored higher than foreign-born millennials; however, native-born U.S. millennials did not perform higher than their peers in any other country.


The study went on to conclude that the data suggests "that simply providing more education may not hold all the answers."


Related Topics:
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