Study Suggests Bachelor Degree Earners have Job-Related Skills Other Workers Do Not

According to a new study released last week, adult workers with baccalaureate degrees have job-related skills that other workers do not.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) compares workers in more than twenty wealthy countries on their abilities to process written and numerical information commonly found in work and social settings.

The study is one of the first to show that a college degree confers core knowledge that adults without degrees are less likely to possess. Initially conducted in 2011-12, the new study for 2013-14 provides a closer look, by category, at young adults, older adults and the unemployed in the U.S. labor force.

The findings give a more detailed picture of the relationship between skills like numeracy and literacy and a U.S. worker’s age and education.

Among U.S. adults age 16-34 with at least a bachelor’s degree, slightly less than a third received either of the two highest scores – a four or five – on the literacy portion of the assessment. The same was true for just 17 percent of workers with an associate’s degree, 10 percent of those with a high-school diploma and 4 percent of those who never completed high school.

The trends for computational skills, or numeracy, and for “problem-solving in technology-rich environments” – a measurement that assesses how well a worker can navigate a website, for example, or interpret signs in a digital setting – were similar.

The higher the education level, the more likely the person scored a four or five. But the scores for all education groups were much lower than they were in the literacy assessment — by roughly a third in numeracy and half in digital problem-solving.

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