Advantage and Disadvantage: A Profile of American Youth

Advantage and Disadvantage: A Profile of American Youth

Advantage and Disadvantage: A Profile of American Youth

Advantage and Disadvantage: A Profile of American Youth

Synopsis

Based upon a large body of factual information,a critical view of the cognitive skills and potentials of young people in the United States in the 1980s. The data is analyzed using the most current statistical techniques and discussed from a broad psychological, sociological and educational perspective. The respondents to the survey were obtained by direct visits to households, not through convenient institutional sources, therefore allowing for a representative national sample. As such, the study typifies a complete cross-section of America's youth both in and out of school. The young people included in the sample were administered the ASVAB, a test battery which consists of ten separately timed and scored tests which assess a wide range of knowledge and skills from English-language reading and vocabulary, through secondary school mathematics understanding and quantitative competance, to quite specific vocational knowledge in technical fields. Differences in the profiles across the ten tests provide some of the more interesting results of the analysis.

Excerpt

In this monograph, we offer the reader a critical view of a large body of factual information describing the cognitive skills and potentials of young people in the United States in the 1980s. the initial source of these data was a nation-wide survey conducted for the Departments of Labor and Defense by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) of the University of Chicago. This survey has the distinction of being the largest study of cognitive and vocational test performance ever attempted in a complete cross-section of this country. the young people were located, not through school systems, but by sampling of households drawn from urban and rural areas, cities and suburbs, and affluent as well as impoverished neighborhoods.

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed wide differences in the vocational potential and preparation of these young people as they begin their transition to independent living. These were differences that would inevitably put them in positions of advantage and disadvantage as they attempted to continue their education, find jobs, or begin careers.

Past experience suggests that caution must be exercised in interpreting data of the kind obtained in this survey. There are obvious implications of inequality, but it is far from obvious why it exists or what action might be taken to lessen it. the facts call out for a theory that will identify the sources of these disparities and provide a rational basis for a public response. But no generally accepted theory exists -- only proposals, speculations, opinions, and little empirical support for any of them. the best that can be done at present is to analyze the profile data in a way that brings its implications into sharp focus, then to judge various theories in the social science literature by how well they account for these facts. Our purpose is to put the results of this analysis and our assessment of the relevant literature at the disposal of a . . .

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