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ERIC Number: ED554352
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 40
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 8
The Occurrence of Low Literacy among Adults in U.S. States and Counties. Research and Development Report. NCES 2010
White, Sheida; Krenzke, Tom; Sherman, Dan
National Center for Education Statistics
In 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a technical report titled "Indirect County and State Estimates of the Percentage of Adults at the Lowest Literacy Level for 1992 and 2003," (ED503830). NCES also published a corresponding online tool ( that allows users to compare estimates of the percentage of adults with the lowest level of prose literacy for any two states or counties--or to compare the estimates for 1992 and 2003 by jurisdiction. This report conveys in nontechnical terms the statistical methodology used to develop the estimates. It also provides major findings for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a profile of adults lacking "Basic" prose literacy, and a description of various potential users and usages of the findings. By way of illustrating how literacy estimates from the report and tool may be interpreted and used, examples from three jurisdictions--the District of Columbia, California, and Connecticut--are provided. This set of estimates is expected to provide information about the literacy of adults, ages 16 and older, lacking "Basic" prose literacy in English (i.e., those who have "Below Basic" barriers). These individuals may be able to read simple words and phrases, but are generally unable to read and comprehend connected text in English, such as a newspaper story. Among the selected findings are: (1) The estimates of the percentage of adults lacking "Basic" prose literacy across states in 2003 range from 6 percent to 23 percent; (2) The national direct estimate in 2003 of the percentage of adults lacking "Basic" prose literacy in English was 14.5 percent--or about 32 million (1 in 7) adults; (3) The corresponding figure from the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey is very similar: 14.7 percent--or about 29 million (1 in 7) adults, so there is no statistically significant change during the period 1992 to 2003 in the proportion having low literacy; and (4) While there was no significant change for the nation during the period 1992 to 2003 in adults' low literacy, there were significant changes for a few states. Three states (Kentucky, Missouri, and Rhode Island) had a significant increase of literacy rates during the past decade and two states (California and New York) had a significant decrease of literacy rates.
National Center for Education Statistics. Available from: ED Pubs. P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398. Tel: 877-433-7827; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Education; Adult Basic Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Center for Education Statistics (ED)
Identifiers - Location: California; Connecticut; District of Columbia
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Adult Literacy Survey (NCES); National Assessment of Adult Literacy
IES Funded: Yes