LITERACY, OCCUPATIONAL STATUS
Relationships among "intelligence," "aptitude," and "achievement" test scores, such as literacy tests, and occupational status have been repeatedly studied over the last seventy-five years. The data presented in Figure 89 illustrate the trends in such studies. The upper part of the figure shows data from World War I in which "intelligence" and occupational status was studied. The tests used to measure "intelligence" were the Army Alpha and Beta tests discussed in Part 1 of this Compendium.
The bottom part of Figure 89 shows data from the 1986 survey of young adult literacy skills ( see pages 99 through 112 of this Compendium) relating "literacy" to occupational status. The trends for 1917 and 1986 are similar: whether one calls the tests measures of "intelligence" or of "literacy," laborers tend to perform more poorly than sales or clerical workers who, in turn, perform more poorly than technical and professional workers.
Figure 90 presents data from the 1986 study of the literacy skills of young adults in relation to the number of jobs that are projected to be available in the year 2000. It shows that there are large differences in the percentages of Whites, Hispanics and Blacks who possess literacy skills at or above the level of the typical clerical worker in the young adult population.
Figure 91 shows relationships of years of education and ethnicity to proficiency on each of the three literacy scales of the 1986 young adult literacy survey. A disturbing finding is that the average proficiency on each of the three literacy scales of Black college educated young adults is slightly below that of White high school graduates. More important, however, is the finding that the average Black college graduate possesses proficiency in literacy below the average proficiency of young adult clerical workers. This is true across all three literacy scales. Together, the data of Figures 90 and 91 suggest that Blacks, including college graduates, will find it difficult to compete with Whites and Hispanics for managerial, technical and professional jobs in the foreseeable future.
Literacy, Job Knowledge and Performance
While there are repeated studies of education, intelligence, aptitude, and achievement and occupational status, there are very few sources of information regarding the relationship of literacy to actual job knowledge and job performance. Figure 92 presents data from military studies showing relationships among reading, job knowledge and job performance. In this work, a commercially available, standardized reading test was used to measure reading skill levels expressed in "reading grade levels." For instance, a reading level of 6.5 means that a person has scored on the reading test like the typical child in the 5th month of the 6th grade.
Job Knowledge tests were paper-and-pencil, multiple- choice tests of job knowledge that supervisors and job incumbents said was essential knowledge for performing the job. Job Performance tests were actual job tasks that were performed in a "hands-on" manner. For instance, Cooks cooked scrambled eggs and other things, Supply Specialists filled-out supply orders, automobile Repairman repaired bleeding brakes and performed other repairs to broken vehicles, and so forth.
Figure 92 shows that reading is related to both Job Knowledge and Job Performance test performance. For instance, in the Supply Specialists job, on the hands-on, Job Performance test, 66% of workers with reading skills in the 4-5.5 level performed in the bottom quarter of performers. On the other hand, 56% of workers with reading skills at the 11-14.5 grade levels were in the top 25% of job performers. These figures show that, even though correlation coefficients may be low (ranging from .26 for Repairman to .40 for Supply Specialists on the hands on, job sample tests; and from .40 for Supply Specialists to .57 for Armor Crewman), the quarter distributions reveal considerable relationships of reading to job proficiency, particularly at the lowest and highest levels of reading.
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