In recent years, a number of international surveys have raised alarms that the United States is falling behind other countries in terms of educational achievement. Now there is another one, and its findings represent a serious threat to the country’s future prosperity. In basic literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, the new study shows, younger Americans are at or near the bottom of the standings among advanced countries.
The survey was carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a Paris-based forum and research group, which counts thirty-three high- and middle-income countries among its members. Some of its findings have been well covered elsewhere, particularly by the Times’ editorial board and its economics columnist Eduardo Porter.
But the data comparing young adults aged sixteen to twenty-four in different countries–the folks who will be manning the global economy for the next thirty or forty years–deserves a closer look. The figures come from three charts in the report’s statistical annex, which we have adapted here. Taken together, they vividly illustrate some of the challenges facing an economic hegemon that has for decades been plagued by wage stagnation and rising inequality, and which, as President Obama has pointed out, desperately needs to raise its game.