American millennials may be the most educated generation ever, but according to a recent study, they don't have much else going for them. Those ages 16 to 34 in the U.S. lag behind international adults in literacy, practical math and problem solving -- three skills employers tend to prioritize when looking to hire.
The Educational Testing Service, the world's biggest private nonprofit assessment group, recently examined the job skills of people in 23 countries during its Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies test. The service found that the U.S. placed 17th in literacy, 18th in technology problem-solving skills and 21st in numeracy. "We really thought [U.S.] millennials would do better than the general adult population, either compared to older co-workers in the U.S. or to the same age group in other countries," researcher Madeline Goodman told Fortune. "But they didn’t. In fact, their scores were abysmal."
American millennials with four-year college degrees got the same test scores as people with only high school diplomas in Finland, Japan and the Netherlands. Japan and Finland came in first and second, respectively, in all three categories. On the whole, the top U.S. millennials -- young adults in the 90th percentile -- were able to outscore only one country: Spain.
The Educational Testing Service's findings indicate that the U.S. should ease up its narrow focus on sending kids to college and instead encourage options that get them to think critically, CBS News reported. "The skills of our millennials -- our youngest cohort, who will be the workers, the decision-makers, and the parents of the next 40 years -- will also have cascading effects on every level of society," the researchers wrote in the report. "A very real danger lies in perpetuating a cycle where low skill levels, less income, and less access to quality education will beget a further entrenchment of deep inequality, with some segments of society more at risk than others."