Presents results from two rounds of the U.S. Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies study conducted in 2012 and 2014. The study compares the scores of adults in the U.S. with the scores of adults in  23 participating countries to better understand the relationship between educational attainment and employment outcomes, with a focus on unemployed adults, young adults, and older adults.

“The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale study of adult skills and life experiences focusing on education and employment. Nationally representative samples of adults between the ages of 16 and 65 are administered an assessment of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments, as well as survey questions about their educational background, work history, the skills they use on the job and at home, their civic engagement, and sense of their health and well-being. The results are used to compare participating countries on the skills capacities of their workforce-aged adults and to learn more about relationships between educational background and employment and other outcomes. PIAAC is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and developed by participating countries with the support of the OECD” (p.1).  

For its data analysis, the report relies on two rounds of PIAAC assessments conducted in 2012 and 2014. The first round PIAAC assessed a nationally representative sample of 5,010 individuals, and the second round assessed a total of “3,660 adults from three key U.S. subgroups of interest: unemployed adults (age 16 to 65); young adults (age 16 to 34); and older adults (age 66 to 74)…. Together, the two rounds of U.S. PIAAC household data collection provide a nationally representative sample of 8,670 noninstitutionalized adults in the United States between the ages of 16 and 74. It is important to note, however, that the second round of data is, by design, an oversample to supplement the first round of data collection and, hence, can only be used together with the first round of data” (p.1).

“The purpose of this report is to present selected results from the first and second rounds of the U.S. PIAAC household data collection (PIAAC 2012/2014). PIAAC results are reported in two ways: (1) as scale scores (estimated on a 0–500 scale) in the three domains of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments,4 and (2) as percentages of adults reaching the proficiency levels established for each of these domains” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PPIAC) 2012/2014

Major Findings & Recommendations

The report provides selected findings by age group and employment status, including the following: For adults age 16 to 65, the report states that “[i]n literacy, the U.S. average score (272) was not measurably different than the PIAAC international average score (273).…In numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments, the United States performed below the PIAAC international average. In numeracy, the U.S. average score was 12 points lower than the PIAAC international average score (257 versus 269…), and in problem solving in technology-rich environments, the U.S. average score was 9 points lower than the international average (274 versus 283…)” (p.5). For adults age 16 to 65 by employment status, the report finds that “[i]n literacy, 15 percent of employed adults age 16-65 performed at the top proficiency level (4/5), while in numeracy 12 percent of employed adults reached this level. In both cases, the percentage of employed adults at the top proficiency level was larger than that of unemployed adults (7 percent in literacy and 4 percent in numeracy) and adults who were out of the labor force (9 percent in literacy and 6 percent in numeracy)” (p.5). For unemployed adults age 16 to 65, the report finds that “[c]omparing internationally, among unemployed adults age 16-65, larger percentages of both males and females in the United States performed at the bottom of the proficiency distribution (Level 1 or below) in numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments than is the case, on average, across the participating PIAAC countries” (p.6). For young adults age 16 to 34, the report finds that “[those] whose highest level of education was high school or less, larger percentages in the United States performed at the bottom of the proficiency distribution (Level 1 or below) in all three domains than is the case, on average, across the participating PIAAC countries” (p.6). Lastly, for older adults age 66 to 74, the report found that “[i]n literacy and numeracy, there were no measurable differences in the percentage of older U.S. adults … who performed at the highest proficiency level (4/5) between those who had a graduate or professional degree and those who had a bachelor’s degree as their highest educational attainment (19 versus 19 percent in literacy and 18 versus 15 percent in numeracy)” (p.6). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)