Thursday, December 09, 2004

Math and ethnicity

According to an international study of students, the position of the United States as a world economic power may be in jeopardy:

The study suggests that there aren't nearly as many bright kids in U.S. schools as there are in other countries -- which could undermine U.S. dominance in technology-related fields. On average, about 4% of kids who took the test scored at the top of a six-point scale; in the U.S., only 2% scored at the top.

The study also indicated that huge numbers of U.S. students can barely do math, meaning the U.S. lacks the advantage of a generally well-educated population, which also can spur growth. One-quarter of the U.S. 15-year-olds scored at either the bottom rung or, worse, scored so low that they didn't even make that level. White and Asian youngsters in the U.S. scored above the international average, but Hispanics averaged 443 on the exam and blacks scored 417.

Those generally low-scoring groups, because of population trends, are becoming an increasing share of the labor market. "It's their productivity that will determine economic growth and whether my generation gets Social Security," says Harvard University economist Richard Murnane.


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