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Posted on September 19th, 2007, by

Illiteracy is causing irreparable damage to our society. If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, you’re wrong. For proof, check out these illiteracy statistics.

Illiteracy Statistics

Illiteracy of American Society

Illiteracy of American Society

In a study of 20 ‘high income’ countries, the US ranked 12th on literacy tests. Illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country that 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their child. A few other shocking facts:

  • 50 percent of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level.
  • 20 percent of Americans are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level.
  • Nearly half of all Americans read so poorly that they cannot find a single piece of information when reading a short publication.

How Illiteracy Affects Job Prospects

  • 3 out of 4 people on welfare can’t read.
  • 20 percent of Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage.
  • 50 percent of the unemployed people who fall between the ages of 16 and 21 cannot read well enough to be considered functionally literate.
  • Between 46 and 51 percent of American adults have an income well below the individual threshold poverty level because of their inability to read.

How Illiteracy Affects Society

  • 3 out of 5 people in an American prison can’t read.
  • 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems reading.
  • Approximately 50 percent of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook and reading prescription drug labels.
  • To determine how many prison beds will be needed in future years, some states actually base part of their projection on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests.

How Illiteracy Costs Taxpayers

  • Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year.
  • Illiteracy has been proven to cause children to drop out of school. Dropouts cost our nation $240 billion in social service expenditures and lost tax revenues.

The Fight Against Illiteracy

The fight against illiteracy is a constant battle. Activists are working to strengthen education amongst young people and amongst adults. If you want to join the fight, there are numerous organizations that accept volunteers and donations.

You can also help to prevent illiteracy by encouraging a young person in your life to read. Enroll them in a book of the month club or buy them a book you know they will enjoy reading.

In short, do your part. The fight against illiteracy is important. If we continue to ignore what is becoming a growing epidemic, we set our entire country up for failure.

Statistics for this article were obtained from the following sources: National Institute for Literacy, National Center for Adult Literacy, The Literacy Company, U.S. Census Bureau

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