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Princeton, N.J. (Apr. 17, 2018) —Tens of millions of America’s nearly 80 million millennials, the diverse generation of Americans between roughly 16 and 34, are not positioned to thrive in today’s world in terms of their level of human capital. This is not an attack on millennials; we are failing many in this generation. As a result, there are significant economic and social consequences for those on the margins—and for all of us, according to the latest research from ETS.
Based on analysis of data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the authors of “Too Big to Fail: Millennials on the Margins” show that nearly half of America’s millennials—around 36 million—are attempting the transition to adult roles with low literacy skills, and more than half—about 46 million—are doing so with low numeracy skills.
In addition, according to the report authors, ETS researchers Anita Sands and Madeline Goodman, millennials with low skills are more likely to be unemployed, out of the labor force, working in low-skill occupations and earning low incomes, and are less likely to have health-care coverage than those with higher skills. Moreover, they are less likely than their higher-skilled peers to have trust in others, be civically engaged, and feel as though they can influence government.
The America millennials inherited was one undergoing a seismic shift. During the 1980s the United States was moving away from being a manufacturing economy with a fairly successful record of supporting a broad middle-class toward one increasingly reliant on a global supply chain. This shift impacted many facets of American life, not least of which is the nature of work and the need for higher level literacy and numeracy skills.
There are fewer sustainable economic opportunities available to those lacking higher-level skills. Work that is available to those with lower skills often carries risks: Many hourly jobs in the burgeoning services sector—where so many with low skills find employment—do not provide health insurance, retirement benefits, sustainable wages, or even reliable hours.
Making matters worse, while educational attainment rates—for both high school and many forms of postsecondary education—have increased, many young adults who have either obtained or are pursuing degrees still lack the necessary skills to advance economically. Furthermore, many students pursuing additional education are burdened by mounting debt for the post-secondary education they have received.
“These findings should shake us to our foundation,” said Sands. Goodman agreed saying, “They speak to our past in that they are in large part rooted in inequitable opportunities to acquire and develop human and, increasingly, social capital. And these findings speak to our future if we do not change course. Given what is known about how advantages and disadvantages compound over generations, the fate of so many millennials jeopardizes not only this critical cohort, but future generations.”
To download or read the complete report please visit: https://www.ets.org/research/report/opportunity-too-big-to-fail/preface.
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, and by conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC ® tests, the GRE ® tests and The Praxis Series ® assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 10,000 locations worldwide. www.ets.org