[Paleopsych] VDARE: Ed Rubenstein: The Stupid American? Look again.

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Ed Rubenstein: The Stupid American? Look again.
[14]Edwin S. Rubenstein Archive
December 22, 2005

National Data, By [17]Edwin S. Rubenstein

Psssst: Have you heard? We've lost our competitive edge.

Historically the U.S. economy excelled because of the skills and smarts of our 
workers. But no longer. America's workforce increasingly lags that of [18]other 
countries in math and literacy skills. We need their [19]brainpower!

At first glance, this assertion seems plausible. Math literacy scores for 
15-year old students in the U.S. ranked in the lower half of 41 countries 
studied in 2003. [[20]ECONOMIC IMPACT: Education statistics don't bode well for 
our future, By Chris Chmura, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec 19, 2005]

U.S. adults ranked 12^th among 20 high income countries in composite (document, 
prose, and quantitative) literacy, according to a separate report released by 
the [21]Educational Testing Service.

A staggering 45 percent of adult Americans cannot read or write at the high 
school graduate level--and nearly half of those (20 percent) scored at a 
literacy level below that of a high school dropout. [Educational Testing 
Service, "[22]The Twin Challenges of Mediocrity and Inequality," February 2002]

International rankings can be misleading, however--especially when many of the 
countries are small and exhibit little variation in average test scores. Thus, 
despite our mediocre ranking, the mean literacy test score for U.S. adults 
(272) was 2 points above the mean for all adults in the 20 country survey 

The 2 point gap is not statistically significant......but we'll take it.

Larger, statistically significant, literacy gaps between us and them unfold 
when you separate immigrant from native-born test takers, as is done in 17 
[23]high income countries surveyed by ETS. [[24]Table 1]

bullet U.S. natives scored 8 points above the average native of the 17 high 
income countries

bullet U.S. immigrants scored 16 points below the average immigrant in the 17 

There are several reasons why immigrants exert more of a literacy drag here 
than elsewhere.

First, they account for a larger share of the population. At the time of the 
international literacy survey (1994) immigrants accounted for about 13 percent 
of U.S. adults, fifth highest proportion among the countries surveyed. Only in 
[25]Australia, [26]Canada, [27]New Zealand, and [28]Switzerland did immigrants 
account for a larger population share.

Second--and far more important--is the abnormally wide gap between native and 
immigrant literacy capabilities in the U.S. Here are the average scores and the 
proportions by which natives outscore immigrants:

bullet U.S.: immigrants 210; natives 284; 74 points, or 35 percent

bullet 17 countries: immigrants 226; natives 276; 50 points, or 22 percent

The immigrant-native differential is still larger among high school dropouts--a 
group that covers one-third of adult U.S. immigrants and only 13 percent of 

bullet U.S.: immigrant dropouts 149; native dropouts 225; 76 points, or 51 

bullet 17 countries: immigrant dropouts 177; native dropouts 243; 66 points, or 
37 percent

Needless to say, immigration is not the only factor behind our weak literacy 
scores. The literacy gap between native-born whites and Asians and their Black 
and Hispanic counterparts ranges from 46 points, or 19 percent, on the prose 
and document literacy tests, to 57 points, or 25 percent, on the quantitative 

The wide dispersion of capabilities forces the ETS Bureaucracy to state the 
politically incorrect, albeit obvious:

"If we adjust the mean NALS scores for U.S. adults under age 65 to exclude all 
foreign-born adults as well as native-born Blacks and Hispanics, then the mean 
prose and quantitative scores of the remaining U.S. adults (Asian and White, 
native-born) would rise to 288, ranking the U.S. second highest--tied with 
Finland and Norway--on the prose scale and fifth highest on the quantitative 
scale.... The findings clearly suggest that future gains in the comparative, 
international literacy standing U.S. adults will require substantial 
improvements in the literacy proficiencies of Blacks, [29]Hispanics, and the 
foreign born from all racial/ethnic groups." [ETS Report, P.22]

Or we could settle for immigration reform.

Edwin S. Rubenstein ([30]email him) is President of [31]ESR Research Economic 
Consultants in Indianapolis.


   14. http://vdare.com/rubenstein/index.htm
   17. http://vdare.com/rubenstein/index.htm
   19. http://www.vdare.com/letters/tl_060601.htm
   21. http://www.vdare.com/rubenstein/051110_nd.htm
   22. http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTWIN.pdf
   23. http://www.vdare.com/sailer/wealth_of_nations.htm
   24. http://vdare.com/rubenstein/051222_nd_table.htm#t1
   25. http://www.vdare.com/misc/051221_fraser.htm
   26. http://www.vdare.com/fulford/immigration_cut_off.htm
   27. http://www.vdare.com/blog/111204_blog.htm#b2
   28. http://vdare.com/zmirak/free_markets.htm
   29. http://www.vdare.com/guzzardi/latino_literacy.htm
   30. mailto:edwin at esrresearch.com
   31. http://www.esrresearch.com/

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