millennials gen z features

Shocking data reveals Millennials lacking skills across board


According to the PIAAC’s 2013 report, which included 5,000 people in each country surveyed (more on the methodology here) and was designed as a household study of nationally representative samples of adults ages 16-65, data on U.S. Millennials reveals:

Comparing their average scores to 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.

Comparing U.S. top-performing and lower-performing Millennials to their international peers:

  • 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.

Comparing millennials with different levels of educational attainment in their performance over time and in relation to their international peers:

  • Although a greater percentage of young adults in the U.S. are attaining higher levels of education since 2003, the numeracy scores of U.S. millennials whose highest level of education is high schooland above high school have declined.
  • Since 2003, the percentages of U.S. millennials scoring below level 3 in numeracy (the minimum standard) increased at all levels of educational attainment.
  • S. millennials with a four-year bachelor’s degree scored higher in numeracy than their counterparts in only two countries: Poland and Spain.
  • The scores of U.S. millennials whose highest level of educational attainment was either less than high schoolor high school were lower than those of their counterparts in almost every other participating country.
  • Our best-educated millennials—those with a master’s or research degree—only scored higher than their peers in Ireland, Poland, and Spain.

Analyzing demographic characteristics on performance:

  • 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 PIAAC this month, in partnership with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), released a more nuanced look at 2012’s data, as well as included more data collected during Round 2 in 2014. According to the PIAAC, nothing much has changed, saying that “differences in international averages calculated for the 2012 PIAAC [report] and those calculated for this report are very small but, on account of them, some estimates round differently.”

(Next page: What does this mean for today’s students, for higher education, and for the economy?)