NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Report: American Millennials Scoring Poorly Compared to International Peers

February 19, 2015

A new report from the Educational Testing Service says that millennials might be the most educated generation in history, but American millennials' scores on international skills tests are less than impressive. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) analyzed data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), an international test which assesses the literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills of adults ages 16 to 65.

Millennials are designated as adults born after 1980, ages 16 to 34. As of 2012, millennials were 26.2 percent of the American population and 35 percent of the civilian labor force. How'd they do? The ETS report puts it bluntly: "Across all three scales, the scores for U.S. millennials are disappointing." Consider the results:

  • Millennials in 15 of 22 participating countries scored higher than U.S. millennials.
  • U.S. millennials ranked dead last for numeracy, alongside Italy and Spain.
  • American millennials were also in last place for "problem solving in technology-rich environments," alongside the Slovak Republic, Ireland and Poland.

The report also compared top millennial performers across countries rather than merely looking at national performance as a whole. Still, top-scoring Americans scored lower than their top-scoring peers in 15 countries. Moreover, low-scoring American millennials scored lower than millennials in 19 countries.

The ETS report notes that while America has invested countless dollars into K-12 education in recent history, Americans are not stacking up against their foreign peers. In fact, the report notes that while more young Americans have attained higher education levels since 2003, those who have at least a high school education have demonstrated declining numeracy scores. Moreover, American millennials with master's or research degrees scored higher only than millennials in Ireland, Poland and Spain.

Source: "America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future," Educational Testing Service, February 2015. 


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