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New Data Point on Adult Numeracy in the United States

White adults make up the largest percentage of U.S. adults with low levels of numeracy, according to the most recent results of a survey on adult skills.

The National Center for Education Statistics released a new Data Point report today, September 1, 2020, entitled Adult Numeracy in the United States.

This Data Point summarizes what data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) show about adult numeracy in the United States.

The findings include the following:

  • Sixty-three million U.S adults possess low numeracy skills in English.
  • U.S.-born adults make up 76 percent of adults with low levels of numeracy skills in the United States.
  • Non-U.S.-born adults comprise 24 percent of the population with low numeracy skills.
  • White adults make up 39 percent of U.S. adults with low levels of numeracy, followed by Hispanic and Black adults, who make up 28 and 26 percent, respectively

PIAAC is a large-scale international study of working-age adults (ages 16–65) that assesses adult skills in three domains (literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving) and collects information on adults’ education, work experience, and other background characteristics. In the United States, when the study was conducted in 2011–12 and 2013–14, respondents were first asked questions about their background, with an option to be interviewed in English or Spanish, followed by a skills assessment in English. Because the skills assessment was conducted only in English, all U.S. PIAAC numeracy results are for numeracy in English.

PIAAC was developed and organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In the United States, PIAAC was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education. More PIAAC results are available on the NCES website at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/.

To view the full report, please visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020025.