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July 18, 2008

Richard Florida

Young Americans

« Big Apple Bounce | Main | I'll Take ... Houston? »

Mark Thoma points us to new research by Elizabeth Casico and her collaborators on how young Americans stack up in the global competition for skills:

Young Americans entering the labor market today face substantial competition. Employers can look all over the world for workers with the skills to meet their firms' needs. Are young Americans ready for these challenges? ...This Economic Letter summarizes new research by Cascio, Clark, and Gordon (2008) (hereafter CCG) that uses data from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), fielded in the 1990s, to address this issue. The authors estimate the skill levels of 16- and 17-year-olds and 26- to 30-year-olds for the United States and other high-income countries. Consistent with other assessments of the school-age population, the IALS data show that U.S. 16- and 17-year-olds perform poorly relative to their counterparts in other nations. By their late 20s, however, those in the U.S. group in the IALS data compare much more favorably to their counterparts abroad, suggesting that they are able to "catch up" in college or beyond.

I find this research fascinating: It lines up completely with my personal experience. As a working class kid who had to hide the fact that I was "smart," my "skill level" and test scores at 16 or 17 would surely have lagged against many international competitors and middle-class Americans. But a Garden State scholarship and admission to Rutgers fundamentally changed my trajectory.  I made up ground very quickly and then continued along into and through graduate school.  I wish I still had my scores: But if I recall correctly, my GRE's were in the neighborhood of 400 or 500 points higher than my SATs.

I can't wait to see if they have subnational data for the US, and - hey wait a minute - any data at all for Canada. 


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Michael Wells

David Brooks has a good column in the NY Times today with a concise list of five major arenas that will demand major government action. We've known about them all for decades and have lost 8 crucial years, but there's still time for all of them. We just need to be willing to think big (Go Al Gore!)

• Social contract (read health care)
• Energy
• Human capital (i.e. this post)
• Financial market reform
• Infrastructure


Brooks includes a silly rap comparing McCain to Teddy Roosevelt, but the first half of the column is a great primer on overdue domestic policy.

hayden fisher

Hey, don't dis McCain, he is a lot like Teddy Roosevelt. The question is do we want another Teddy Roosevelt when there's another John Kennedy on deck (if he changes his tax policies). These are the best two candidates fielded by either party in forever.

...get your post-partisan on!


Why is Switzerland the only country where people become less literate with age?

Canadian IALS results here:

Mike L.

This data appears to be from 1995 or earlier. Has nothing changed? Switzerland has 3 languages, so it is not clear what the "Switzerland" bars mean on this chart. Perhaps they reflect a shift in language usage as students enter adult life.

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