2007 February 06 Tuesday
Perfect Storm In Demographics To Shrink American Middle Class

Demographic trends driven by immigration will make the US workforce less literate in the year 2030.

US workers may be significantly less literate in 2030 than they are today.

The reason: Most baby boomers will be retiring and a large wave of less-educated immigrants will be moving into the workforce. This downward shift in reading and math skills suggests a huge challenge for educators and policymakers in the future, according to a new report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

If the trend continues it will shrink the middle class.

The decline in literacy is one of the more startling projections in a report that examines what it calls a "perfect storm" of converging factors and how those trends are likely to play out if left unchecked.

The three factors identified are: a shifting labor market increasingly rewarding education and skills, a changing demographic that include a rapid-growing Hispanic population, and a yawning achievement gap, particularly along racial and socioeconomic lines, when it comes to reading and math.

Genetic engineering could reverse the trend. A high IQ threshold on immigrants could slow the trend.

The report is available online. From the executive summary, the US workforce is going to become less skilled. (PDF format). To my knowledge that has never happened before in the US.

Employing demographic projections combined with current skill distributions, we estimate that by 2030 the average levels of literacy and numeracy in the working-age population will have decreased by about 5 percent while inequality will have increased by about 7 percent. Put crudely, over the next 25 years or so, as better-educated individuals leave the workforce they will be replaced by those who, on average, have lower levels of education and skill. Over this same period, nearly half of the projected job growth will be concentrated in occupations associated with higher education and skill levels. This means that tens of millions more of our students and adults will be less able to qualify for higher-paying jobs. Instead, they will be competing not only with each other and millions of newly arrived immigrants but also with equally (or better) skilled workers in lower-wage economies around the world.

The change in the number of years of education understates the change in skills and intellectual abilities. On average Hispanics in 12th grade know about as much as whites in 8th grade.

The dual weights of a huge retired elderly group and a growing less educated and less intellectually able segment of the working age will weigh heavily on the US economy in coming decades.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 February 06 11:41 PM  Immigration Dumbing Down

Kenelm Digby said at February 7, 2007 3:53 AM:

Don't let all this bally-hoo about a 'shrinking middle class' worry you.
The political class has millions of tickets bearing the label 'good professional job in the USA available - Indians only need apply'.
What's more there are hundreds of millions of Indians out there just waiting to grab those tickets as greedily as a child snatching candy.

Ryan said at February 9, 2007 6:47 AM:

What are the tax implications of this? I can only assume that a less economically independent lower/middle class will mean more income redistribution and more government control over general services. How can we, as individuals protect our savings?

Mensarefugee said at February 10, 2007 9:22 PM:

"How can we, as individuals protect our savings?"

By giving up your job and joining the lower class in a free for all suckling on the governmental welfare teat of course.

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