Assessing the Adult Literacy Pipeline in the Permian Basin

Many of us take for granted that we can read a short list or paragraph and identify the information that is most important. This is not the case for 37% of adults in the Permian Basin, a 22-county area covering large swaths of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. The large concentration of low literate adults negatively impacts the individuals’ themselves, but also their children and the future well-being of the region.

Adult literacy data is highly variable across the region. The LCPB has an opportunity to develop a shared data and performance management infrastructure to focus their common goals, measurements and commitments to action.

- Trent Sharp

The Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin (LCPB) is committed to confronting this challenge by providing resources, increasing awareness, and convening partners to ensure efforts are aligned and impactful. LCPB contracted with AIR to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of the adult literacy pipeline in the Permian Basin to anchor their efforts in evidence. The needs assessment included four integrated components:

  • An economic impact analysis by the Perryman Group examining the impact of low literacy on the regional economy for the next three generations (2020 to 2050). The full report is available at the LCPB website.
  • A county and community-level adult literacy pipeline analysis that explores the relationship between low-literacy, education attainment and a variety of social factors that are significant in the region.
  • Interviews with adult learners as well as a diverse ensemble of stakeholders from the public and private sector who are actively invested in the region’s adult literacy system.
  • A regional literacy summit for stakeholders from across the region to gather, examine the findings from the assessment, and prioritize strategies to guide their next steps as a coalition.

Study Results

We found that improving adult literacy in the Permian Basin would have a transformative impact for the region and its residents over the next two generations. If they are able to match the current literacy rates in Texas and New Mexico by 2040, the annual earnings gains would be approximately $353 million, with more than $242 million in new gross product each year and over 6,725 new jobs. The LCPB is currently utilizing the recommendations from the needs assessment to pursue this worthy goal.