NCES Data Point: Adult English Literacy in the United States

The ability to read and understand basic texts is vital in modern society. Though many adults take this skill for granted, it has a deep impact on an individual’s ability to participate in society, achieve his or her goals, and fully develop their knowledge and potential.

A National Center for Education Statistics Data Point shows that one in five adults in the United States have low English literacy skills, meaning that they would have difficulty understanding, evaluating, using, or engaging with written texts. On a practical level, this means that they might struggle to compare and contrast, paraphrase, or make low-level inferences. Of the 43 million adults in the U.S. with low English literacy skills, two-thirds of them were born in the U.S.Infographic: U.S.-Born Adults Make Up the Largest Percentage of Those with Low English Literacy Skills

Infographic: How Many U.S. Adults Have Low English Literacy Skills?

The Data Point was written by AIR, using data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. It only considered literacy in the English language, not adults’ overall literacy.