It's Official: American Adults Are Dumber Than Average

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

The study is called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies and it tested 166,000 people aged 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries.  It found that in math, reading and problem solving, American adults scored below the international average.

I can’t say this is surprising, after all, the public allowed the big banks that destroyed the economy to gift themselves trillions in the aftermath of the financial crisis with barely a peep in response. You don’t have to be a problem solving genius to figure that one out. Finally, there is some proof behind our long-held suspicions.

From the Associated Press via the New York Post:

WASHINGTON — It’s long been known that America’s school kids haven’t measured well compared with international peers. Now, there’s a new twist: Adults don’t either.


In math, reading and problem-solving using technology – all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength – American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.


Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.


Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation’s high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven’t.

Yes, it’s called feudalism.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.


Researchers tested about 166,000 people ages 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries and subnational regions. The test was developed and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of mostly industrialized member countries. The Education Department’s Center for Education Statistics participated.


Americans scored toward the bottom in the category of problem solving in a technology rich environment. The top five scores in the areas were from Japan, Finland, Australia, Sweden and Norway, while the US score was on par with England, Estonia, Ireland and Poland. In nearly all countries, at least 10 percent of adults lacked the most basic of computer skills such as using a mouse.

The above is somewhat surprising given the amount of time Americans spend glued to their iPhones for Facebook updates about what their cousin ate for breakfast. I can tell you one category in which Americans surely beat all global competitors. The art of mercilessly stampeding into one another like animals at Wal-Mart on Black Friday to purchase plasma televisions. That that world.

Full article here.

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JR's picture

This ages old excuse has been disproven so many times but most spectacularly among the poor immigrants from Europe whose home was bare of the essentials and yet the culture created the desire for improvement for learning, for discipline, for morality. How many times did parents vow that their children would do better than they, and that “you go to school and learn what you need to make something of yourself.”

The difference is not poverty, it’s culture.

29.5 hours's picture


Not sure this 'Mexico factor' argument is relevant. There were several years of my life when worked an industrial job with mostly Mexican immigrants.

They were not educated in university but, on the whole, they were not only sharp mentally but trained in industrial skills. In Mexico, the government actually built and supported schools for learning such things.

People who are poor tend to know how to use their brains to fuller advantage than people who are comfortable and with all challenges ameliorated with money or more debt.


JR's picture

That's nonsense. The differences in growth versus the American system versus the Mexican system has more to do with it than just work skills; it has to do with progress in thinking, in demanding graduation to professional thinking, to intellectual evaluation of our country and nation and making them better. The voting patterns of Hispanics are showing that their goals conflict with the principles of the nation's Founders; thereby, leading not to the advancement of mankind under liberty but a return to the party corruption of Mexico - and now this philosophy has helped in the corruption of America's political system (exhibit A: modern day California).

Arkadaba's picture

And who scored towards the top? All those northern countries with hockey, socialized medicine, easier access to higher education, maternal benefits and lower defence spending. What variable contributes the most? 


Diogenes's picture

I'm pretty sure it's not the hockey players who are bringing up the scores.

Arkadaba's picture

It isn't just demographics.

When I first moved to the States I went through a 2 day interview process and while most asked me relevant questions, one did not. After accepting the job I found out that she was the most idiotic person I have ever known. And she had a degree! An advanced degree! 

Education as business, prisons as business, obamacare as business - not condicive to a healthy workforce?


Gavrikon's picture

IF we are speaking statistically, (as this study is) then demographics IS the major factor.  Your experience with a stupid white person proves no more than my experience with an intelligent african.  They are exceptions that prove the rule.

Geruda's picture

And the question she asked was, "Have you cooked fries before?"

Anusocracy's picture

Them Northic Countries are behind in importing the less ably wired. Check back in a couple of decades.

superflex's picture

You mean countries made up primarily of whites.


Diogenes's picture

Hate to break it to you but Canada is no longer a white country. Major urban areas are 40% first generation immigrants, almost none of them European.

FrankDrakman's picture

Hate to break it to you, but as of 2011, according to StatsCan 25 million of 33 million, or about 76%, Canadians are white.

Quantum Darwinism's picture

I'm glad at least one gets it.

Clowns on Acid's picture

The only country in the top 10 from the Southern hemispere is Australia. And they are mostly European transplants.

What variable contributes the most?... The one you left out... homogenous societies.

Constitutional Republic's picture

Out of the survey,, Britain is worse. Is ZH into self-flagellation or is it serving a foreign agenda to demoralise Americans?

'Below average' is its point of reference for this article, and then goes on to show ZH is below average comprehension of politicized international surveys. I know the average American is cheated by the system, but relatively better off than most places. 


RebelDevil's picture

I've noticed that ZH is much more focused on America, mostly because (At least some of) the Tylers are likely based in America.

To criticize your own society is one of the moral causes of the intellectual.

Constitutional Republic's picture

Check your facts again. ZH has a foreign server for its site,  and some say its founders are very angry with their trades in the U.S. But I couldn't possibly comment on that, as I am a mere American, more willing to pursue facts, without fear or favor, rather than your 'likely based in America' assumption.

alfred b.'s picture


     Well, we had to know that somebody would find that out at some point...and put it in print.    It's been obvious to many for years!


LetThemEatRand's picture

Welcome to Wal-America.  Do you need a cart or a scooter?

Money Squid's picture

Do you want fries with your 90" teevee?

MedicalQuack's picture

Might I say Congress is dumber than the average lawmaker too:)

Money Squid's picture

"The above is somewhat surprising..."

Not really since it is far easier to cotrol stupid, needy people than higher functioning self sufficient types. The abilities, behaviors, desires and demands are closely monitored and food, entertainment, "news", and education are adjusted to gain further control of an increasing population.

I can not wait for "Brawndo, the thirst mutilator"

Gavrikon's picture

Well, it IS what plants crave . . .

ThorAss's picture

Anyone else find it ironic that on an article about how stupid Americans are, there is a picture of a Canadian comedian playing the part of a dumb American? Surely, it couldn't have been too difficult to find a picture of an actual dumb American. Bush the Decider springs to mind.


Non Passaran's picture

Did it occur to you that they couldn‘t find an American commedian intelligent enough to take that role?

dexter_morgan's picture

Obama, Maddow, Stewart - any one of those would have been perfect for that role.

Gavrikon's picture

Just fucking come out and say oit.  White Americans score just as well as whites in high-scoring European countries.  Our Asians do better.

Blacks and browns bring us down, just like everywhere else in the world.

I get so fucking tired of people tiptoeing around the truth. 

Midas's picture

I don't bring it up because I've been axt not to.

RebelDevil's picture

People are afraid of being called racist, but it is the truth. Negros are mostly poorer, which correlates which how educated one is.

24KGOLD FOIL HAT's picture

Its the statists who want to increase education spending.  This US rates low shit is propaganda.  Trying to convince voters to raise taxes "for the children!"

Break it down by zipcode.  White zipcodes will tie for 1st in the world.

syntaxterror's picture

But we have the Nobel Prize winner leading us! Hope and change bitches!!!

Geruda's picture

The truth is, if you could break it down further it would be the red staters are stupider than the blue staters.  The fact Americans let the banks be gifted in the way described is owing to the fact red state politicians enable it to happen.   Red state politicians are far and away some of the most ignorant sounding brain dead assholes on the face of the earth.   Not to say there aren't a few stupid liberals scattered amongst them but you are in total denial to think some of those Southern hacks aren't as stupid as they come.  If nothing else take a quick trip down memory lane and review the progression of buffoons that were temporary front runners leading up to choosing Mitt Romney as their champion.   


The true conservatives are as gone and displaced as William Buckley has been supplanted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and any number of goons of idiocy we are all too familiar with by now.   

Bay of Pigs's picture

Why are you coming in here and spewing your left/right, red/blue bullshit?

Fact is, most ZHers have moved on from that course, and don't care about it anymore. Why don't you just let it go?

RebelDevil's picture

Each main stream political philosophy is playing its part in the cultural decline.
Liberals advocate creating public debt to fuel demotivating social programs.
Conservatives advocate deregulation in business, creating intense "boom and bust cycles" in each industry.  
Both seem to be at fault here.

Bay of Pigs's picture

Sorry, but you don't seem to get it either. Its ONE party. As in captured. The pro bankster, Wall St, MIC, corporate fascist party.

Conservatives and Liberals? Please...

Geruda's picture



Most ZH'ers have moved on!!!!????


If you believe that you must play on the red team.

dexter_morgan's picture

LOL - are you really defending the democrats and Obama as being more intelligent or having improved anything in this country? Have you been in hibernation since 2008? Can you name one thing Bush did which you hated that Obama hasn't done more of? You need to move beyond the false red/blue paradigm. Bush got us in to a war -Obama has us in several conflicts and we still aren't out of Iraq and Afghanistan like Obama promised we would be, and talking about action in Syria. Invasions of privacy.........? Shredding of the constitution.........? Wealthy getting wealthier? Corruption? Openness of Administration? Wall Street darling? Debt is bad in 2006 and raising debt ceiling is lack of leadership, now we have to do it and to speak against it is almost treasonous. Seriously, you aren't smart enough to see there is no difference except Obama is kind of like Bush on steroids when it come to bad ideas and corruption.

You apparently prove what the article says I guess.

Geruda's picture

I think what you are not aware enough to grasp is that wealth is power.   There is enormous, almost unimaginable wealth operating behind the scenes that makes what happens happen.   When someone like bush gets put into place he behaves like a willing and eager pawn.  A president has certain kinds of power capable of having tremendous influence on the outcome of what takes place during his administration.  It is incomparably more easy to do things that cause great destruction than to do things that accomplish a comparable amount of positive result.   Iraq is a very simple example.  Easy to get us in an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that alienates the rest of the planet and stimulates a hatred that will not die for decades.   Not so easy to uninvade that destroyed nation and put all the pieces back together again, make the victims love us again, raise the innocent back to life again etc.   The untold cost to our own country as a result is profound.  We've spent more money trying to rebuild the country we destroyed than we've spent on trying to upgrade our own infrastructure.   As president bush appointed hoards of mediocre, untalented, primarily bible thumping, party first - country second types of people to absolutely important and critical management positions.   Rumsfeld - more detested by the military than any previous secdef in history.  Haliburton was give the keys to the candy store, everything possible done to keep Enron from being found out, including outright lies by the POTUS denying his connections, the hoax of 9/11, supreme court appointees who believe corporations are people and money is free speech.   Murikans  represented by a simian look alike who could barely speak coherently and thought sneaking up and giving Merkel a surprise backrub was the American thing to do...the list of obscenities committed by the ex-cokehead, awol, frat boy is endless.   Obama works in a straight jacket.   His goals which he may or may not be successful at achieving are basically aimed in the direction of helping people, not making the rich richer.   He wants better medical care for everybody not just a system that enables the drug companies to get fatter than they already are.  He is more concerned about making life better for people at the lowest end of the economic scale  than he is at finding ways to make it even easier for the wealthy class to increase their already mega excessive share of wealth.   He appoints intelligent people or tries, the backlog of unconfirmed judges and such is a staggering problem inflicted upon him.   45 billion dollars worth of unused humvees are heading for the scap heap as we try to withdraw form afghanistan.   Who got rich from all the warring that was initiated by his predecessor.   You don't think it was a wise thing he came up with to avoid being stampeded into bombing Syria by delaying the rush to do so that was being promoted by those who wanted it to happen?  You must have some simplistic view of things to think  he can simply step in and with a wave of his arm undo  the destruction and quiecse the voracious beast that Einsenhower warned was going to devour this nation of ours.    Obama was put into the cockpit of an airliner about to go into a fatal tailspin.  He has so far prevented the spin from beginning to occur but when this is over no one is going to be able to blame him for not being able to avoid the crash.  At best he'll be respected for being able to prolong the glide towards our eventual destruction smoothly enough that all the passengers had enough time to make peace with their maker.


Are you mad at him because he can't perform miracles.  I'm pretty disappointed about it too.  He could probably have done a lot better if he hadn't had such a shit poor electorate to deal with.  An electorate too populated by types who went gaga over bimbos like Sarah Palin, who think of senile fool like McCain was fit to lead this nation -  how many wars do you think we'd be in if he got elected?  McCain thinks nothing of sending 50,000 soldiers to die if that's what it takes to accomplish some ultimately worthless mission.   And despite the evidence of the total lack of judgement on the part of people who put clearly disastrous leaders in power, the same incompetent people think they are still qualified to make the next judgement.  If I were king, anyone who was so lacking in perspicacity to not recognize what a worthless person george bush was, would be inelgible to vote for the rest of their lives.

dexter_morgan's picture

Your illogic is proof of the accuracy of the study. Brain-stem level intelligence having gone through life confident they are smarter than everyone else when in reality know nothing and spew yesterdays talking points.

lolman's picture

The reality is that Red States have more blacks, thus dragging down the average

It is weird that no one has mentioned it

boeing747's picture

In McDonald, My order costed $5.78, I gave the boy $6.03, he freezed for 15 seconds, took $6 and returned me 3 cents, then gave me changes of 0.22. Talk about Math in US.

Geruda's picture

What was your point exactly?   He got through his arithmetic problem with the correct result.   You meanwhile failed in grammar, i.e. costed, freezed, changes.   Plus, my teacher in high school used to say whenever she made an error doing a problem on the board that was due to incorrect addition or subtraction  - "Good mathematicians aren't necessarily good arithmeticians."

Your McDonalds boy was doing arithmetic not math.  He did pass.  You on the other hand appear to have gotten a lousy grade on your essay.  I suspect people who are in the socio-economic class that eat at McDonalds tend not to do well in any kind of academic testing.  And finally, you should have given him $6 and told him to keep the change, you tight ass.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Geruda Retarduda said:

What was your point exactly?   He got through his arithmetic problem with the correct result.

No, he did not. Confronted with a puzzling situation, his brain struggled to respond. "Ugh, customer gives too many moneys..... ummmm...... give back pennies."

You meanwhile failed in grammar, i.e. costed, freezed, changes.

That's fucking hilarious. Grammar criticism coming from someone who, just two days ago, said this:

This is being one more bad thing we are having to be having blames to the tea bagging stupids who are like the bats who are having shitting crazies we can be having thanks for.

Fuck the whatness?

Geruda's picture

No, he did not. Confronted with a puzzling situation, his brain struggled to respond.


Yes, he did!  My niece worked at the same McD's and told me she remembered the incident.  Some fat pigfaced redneck who left with a smirk on his face stuffing himself with a big mac dribbling cheese down his front.

That McD's had a rule employees were told to abide.   Accept as few pennies as possible and maximize the amount of small coinage they gave out as change.  The manager hates it when they have to haul cartons of pennies to the bank and threatens any employee who unnecessarily hands out larger coinage unnecessarly with termination.   

It's brittle brained jerks like you who just can't seem to think outside of their boxes that leads to the kind of dysfunctional thinking witnessed here so often. 


Does the slippage in grammar I exhibited a while back mean that the grammar of the person under consideration is therefore correct?  You must be pretty remedial yourself to think there is some sort of connection between the wrongness one person does and whatever wrongness some other person does.


TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Gerutarda said:

Yes, he did!

No, he did not. You originally claimed that the cashier solved the arithmetic problem, and it is clear that he did not.

Your diversionary little vignette about your niece and the McDonald's manager is an example of the red herring fallacy. Because you could not support your claim that the cashier solved the arithmetic problem, you attempted to shift your argument to fit a different claim (the 'cartons of pennies' story).

Does the slippage in grammar I exhibited a while back mean that the grammar of the person under consideration is therefore correct?

Non sequitur. I said nothing regarding the grammar of the person under consideration. You did. My comment was on the lameness of your critique given the grammatical dungheap of a persona you were affecting mere days ago.

Also a false dichotomy, since the correctness of your grammar and that of another person are not mutually exclusive.

You must be pretty remedial yourself to think there is some sort of connection between the wrongness one person does and whatever wrongness some other person does.

Good job setting up a claim I never made and then knocking it down. That particular logical fallacy is known as a straw man.

It's brittle brained jerks like you who just can't seem to think outside of their boxes that leads to the kind of dysfunctional thinking witnessed here so often.

Pretty sanctimonious there, Captain Fallacy.

q99x2's picture

I don't know about the dumber part but can't you change the UnderTone ads to UnderWear ads?

NoWayJose's picture

You cannot measure intelligence or problem solving by how well someone uses a mouse. The test itself is flawed, as is all such tests, because what is being measured is in the eye of the person making up the test. A farmer might fail in using a mouse, but a Silicon Valley genius can't change a flat tire, or fix a tractor, or tell when to harvest. Are you more intelligent because you can understand a 10-Q or if you know how to replace a toilet? But there are plenty of Americans who can't do any of these things, and a lot of that is due to laziness and poor work ethic.

Bobportlandor's picture

I was skeptical of the story until I saw your comment.