Assessing the State of Digital Skills in the U.S. Economy

November 29, 2021
  • According to the OECD, fully one-third of working-age Americans possess even limited digital skills. One in six are unable to use email, web search, or other basic online tools.
  • The United States ranks just 29th out of 100 countries for the digital acumen of its workforce in business, technology, and data science, according to Coursera.
  • This comes against a backdrop of increasing digital skills requirements for many U.S. occupations. Brookings found that whereas only 44 percent of U.S. jobs required medium-high digital skill levels in 2002, 70 percent did by 2016.
  • Digital skills are critical to higher wages: Jobs that incorporate higher levels of digital content pay more—in fact, for every 10 percent increase in ICT-task intensity, the average U.S. worker’s salary increases 4 percent.
  • The United States needs to increase its number of computer science graduates and concentrate particularly on women, who represented 37 percent of U.S. computer scientists in 1995, but just 24 percent today.
  • The United States needs to significantly increase its investment in workforce training, including for digital skills. As a share of GDP, the federal government now invests less than half as much in such programs as it did 30 years ago.
  • With corporate investment in workforce training also falling by 30 percent as a share of GDP from 1999 to 2015, Congress should expand Section 127 tuition credits.