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Thomas Piketty – the French economist and author of the 700-page book "Capital in the Twenty-First century" – argues that free markets tend to produce inequalities of wealth that become dynastic and anti-meritocratic.If reading Piketty reminds us of the troubling inequalities of wealth, reading the recent, path-breaking Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on adult skills in rich countries provides an equally grim picture of the inequalities of knowledge – one that for the U.S. is terrifying. Thirty-six million American adults have low skills. This is the first-ever comprehensive study of the skills adults need to work in today's world – in literacy, numeracy and technology. Inequality of skills was closely correlated to inequality of income.Inequalities of skills are also becoming generational and entrenched.The U.S. has high levels of education and a large percentage of its workers in adult learning and training programs, and it spends lots of money on all these activities. The single biggest force behind falling American rankings is not that the U.S. is doing things much worse but that other countries have caught up and are doing better.
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