Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hard Numbers

The OECD's new report on Adult Skills around the world makes for fascinating reading. For example, Tyler Cowen notes for the UK that:
England is the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement is more literate and numerate than the youngest adults...
That doesn't bode well.

Another one caught my attention - the ubiquitous gap between men and women around the world when it comes to numeracy skills. Notes the OECD:

On average across countries, the mean score on the numeracy scale is higher for men than for women by about 13 score points – for all surveyed countries (Figure 3.4 [N]). The difference is statistically significant in all but two countries, Poland and the Slovak Republic. The largest differences are found in Germany (17 points), the Netherlands (17 points) and Flanders (Belgium) (16 points).

Obviously it's all a plot by the patriarchy and shouldn't be confused with, you know, actual real differences between the sexes. On the other hand, when it comes to literacy skills the picture is less stark:

Proficiency differences in literacy are more mixed and rather small. On average across countries, there is a 2 score-point difference in favour of men. In ten countries, men have higher mean scores on the literacy scale than women, with the largest differences observed in Korea, the Netherlands, Germany and Flanders (Belgium) (5- to 6-point difference). But in over half of the countries surveyed there is no statistically significant difference between men and women on the literacy scale. In Poland, however, women have higher mean scores than men (6-point difference).
It's a fascinating report, and at 466 pages it'll pay to revisit it from time to time.


  1. If men are so much more numerate, why do women outperform men in Maths in school (and not just in Ireland)?

  2. I'm not sure Bill - but it could be something to do with the analysis put forward by my favourite feminist Camille Paglia:

    Our present system of primary and secondary education should be stringently reviewed for its confinement of boys to a prison-like setting that curtails their energy and requires ideological renunciation of male traits. By the time young middleclass men emerge from college these days, they have been smoothed and ground down to obedient clones.

    More of her inimitable style here:


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