Low Skills Limit Opportunity for All

Who Has Low Skills?

  • About one in six adults ages 16-65 are low-skilled individuals.​ 
  • About one-third of low-skilled adults ages 16-65 are under age 35. 
  • Two-thirds of the youngest low-skilled adults ages 16-24 are men. 
  • One-third of low-skilled adults ages 16-65 are immigrants. 
  • Nearly three-fourths of adults ages 16-65 are black or Hispanic.​ 

Who Would Benefit From Higher Skills?

Individuals and Families

  • The economic payoff to individuals for higher skills is greater in the United States than in almost any other industrialized country.
  • Increasing parents’ skills can improve education outcomes for their children.
  • Higher-skilled adults are healthier, with implications for their ability to work, parent, and participate in their communities.

Business and Industry

  • Increasing adult skills increases productivity.
  • Because higher-skilled workers are also likely to be healthier, helping adults improve their skills indirectly raises productivity.
  • Increasing skills expands access to employment and better-paying jobs, creating new customers for products and services.


  • Low-skilled Americans are motivated to get ahead.
  • Raising adult skills could lift community educational attainment for the next generation as well.
  • States with better-educated workforces have higher economic growth and higher wages.
  • Raising adult skills could potentially save communities substantial amounts in healthcare costs.
  • Integrating immigrants may benefit communities economically.
  • Raising adult skills could result in more civic engagement in communities.


U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. (2015, February). Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Author.