Low Literacy Levels Among U.S. Adults Could Be Costing The Economy $2.2 Trillion A Year

By Michael T. Nietzel for Forbes.com

A new study by Gallup on behalf of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy finds that low levels of adult literacy could be costing the U.S. as much $2.2 trillion a year.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16-74 years old – about 130 million people – lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. That’s a shocking number for several reasons, and its dollars and cents implications are enormous because literacy is correlated with several important outcomes such as personal income, employment levels, health, and overall economic growth.

Commenting on the significance of the study, British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation, said, “America’s low literacy crisis is largely ignored, historically underfunded and woefully under-researched, despite being one of the great solvable problems of our time. We’re proud to enrich the collective knowledge base with this first-of-its-kind study, documenting literacy’s key role in equity and economic mobility in families, communities and our nation as a whole.”

The new research by Gallup attempts to estimate the gains in GDP that could result from improving adult literacy rates for the nation as a whole as well as in the individual states and major metropolitan areas. Here’s the basic methodology of the study, entitled “Assessing the Economic Gains of Eradicating Illiteracy Nationally and Regionally in the United States,” under the direction of lead author Dr. Jonathan Rothwell, Gallup’s principal economist.

Read more here.

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