Literacy in America

  1. Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70 percent of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
  2. 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
  3. As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less well educated than the previous.
  4. Literacy is a learned skill. Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write.
  5. Nearly 85 percent of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60 percent of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
  6. 53 percent of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20 percent of 8th graders could say the same. (2009 study)
  7. 75 percent of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  8. Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty level and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than the girls their age who can read proficiently.
  9. Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.

Sources: Huffington Post, Begin to Read, RIF, SCI Learn


Quick Facts
  • American businesses lose more than $60 billion in productivity each year (1)
  • Drop outs earn 48% less than those with a high school education (2)    
  • 47% of prison inmates are high school drop outs (3)
  • Up to $73 billion is wasted annually in unnecessary healthcare expenditures due to low health literacy (4)
  • Almost half of all mothers on welfare lack a high school diploma, leaving their children trapped in a cycle of poverty (5)
  • When adults improve their literacy skills, their children have fewer health problems, drop out of school less, and have fewer teen pregnancies, less joblessness, and less social alienation (6)
  • Nationally, limited literacy skills cost business and taxpayers $20 billion annually in lost wages, profits, and productivity (7)
  • With the retirement of the baby boomers, projections are that the US will have a shortage of perhaps 12 million qualified workers in the next decade (8)
  • 34% of job applicants lack the literacy skills needed to do the job they seek (8)
    (1) National Center for Education Statistics, 1998
    (2) National Institute for Literacy, 2000
    (3) National Center for Family Literacy, 2002
    (4) National Academy of an Aging Society
    (5) U.S. Census Bureau, 1995
    (6) Ohio Literacy Resource Center, 1997
    (7) ProLiteracy America, 2003
    (8) The American Management Association, 2003

The Impacts

The Impact of Literacy

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