In Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, Japanese Adults Beat Rest of World

The U.S. ranked 16th in literacy and fell into the bottom three countries for numeracy

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Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP / Getty Images

Six-year-old Japanese elemetary student Seishi Nishida (C) raises his hand along with classmates at school in Tokyo on June 11, 2013.

A survey of adult literacy and numeracy in 22 OECD countries (i.e. the wealthy ones) reveals that Japan, more than any other nation, has the three R’s down cold. Only one in twenty Japanese adults struggled to read a simple text, compared with one in ten adults in the second most literate nation, Finland.

All the way down at 16th place came the U.S., where, the report notes, “Improvements between younger and older generations are barely apparent,” and even going in reverse when it comes to numeracy.

One stand-out figure in the study showed that the median wage of a highly literate worker was 61% higher than the least literate workers, proving that the benefits of an education continue long after the student has left the schoolhouse.