Literacy statistics

Reading and comprehension skills stem far beyond the classroom. Illiteracy has a profound impact on an individual's life, including: employability, poverty, crime, living conditions, health and educational attainment. Illiteracy can be cyclical, passed along from a parent to a child. Here are some eye-opening literacy statistics:

Education and literacy:

  • Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills upon entering school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out in later years.
  • Children who do not read on grade-level by 4th grade have a 78% chance of not catching up.
  • Students who reported having all four types of reading materials at home (newspapers, books, magazines, encyclopedias) scored, on average, higher than students who reported having fewer reading materials. 

Crime and literacy:

  • 85% of youth who interact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
  • More than 60% of prison inmates are considered functionally illiterate.
  • 2/3 of children who cannot read proficiently by 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

Poverty and literacy:

  • Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 who live at or below poverty level and have average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than their peers who can read proficiently.
  • 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels

Economic impacts of illiteracy:

  • It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and the taxpayer is roughly $20 billion per year.
  • An estimated more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because of reading problems.
  • Low literacy costs roughly $73 billion per year in direct health care costs.



The Literacy Company "Reading, Literacy & Education Statistics" Facts drawn from: US Department of Education, US Department of Health and Human Services, United Way, National Adult Literacy Survey NECS.  "11 Facts About Literacy in Amercia"