The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies is a large-scale study of working-age adults – ages 16 to 65 – conducted by the U.S. Department of Education that assesses adult skills in three domains: literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving. The assessment defines numeracy as “the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life.”
The survey found that 70 percent of U.S. adults have sufficient numeracy skills to make calculations with whole numbers and percentages, estimate numbers or quantity, and interpret simple statistics in text or tables. But nearly one in three U.S. adults (30 percent) has difficulty completing such tasks. This translates into 62.7 million U.S. adults who possess low numeracy skills.
Nearly one quarter of all adults in the United States with low numeracy skills are foreign born. About 15 percent of all adults in the United States are foreign born.
African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But 26 percent of the adults with low numeracy skills are Black. Thus, Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to have low levels of numeracy skills compared to their percentage of the total population. Three percent of all adults in the U.S. with low levels of numeracy skills are foreign-born Blacks.