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"Beyond Degrees: Tackling Low Literacy Rates in a Highly Educated Society"

Why Low Literacy Rates in America Must be Addressed, Despite Increasing Educational Attainment

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of adults in the United States with a bachelor's degree or higher.

This is a positive trend that highlights the importance of education in achieving economic success and social mobility. However, recent statistics reveal that more than half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 74 (54%) read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.

This shocking statistic highlights the need to address low literacy rates in the U.S., even as educational attainment increases.

Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write, but it encompasses much more than that. It also includes comprehension, evaluation, and utilization of information. Low literacy skills can have profound effects on the day-to-day success of adults and their families.

Those who struggle with low literacy skills often face barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment, healthcare, and other essential services. Additionally, low literacy levels can have a negative impact on family relationships, community engagement, and overall quality of life.

One might assume that increasing educational attainment would lead to higher literacy rates, but this is not necessarily the case. While there may be some correlation between education level and literacy skills, it is not a direct relationship. Some individuals may have completed higher education but still struggle with reading and writing due to factors such as learning disabilities, lack of access to quality education, or limited exposure to literacy-rich environments.

Therefore, it is important to investigate the factors that contribute to low literacy rates, even as educational attainment increases. Addressing the issue of low literacy rates requires a multifaceted approach that includes early intervention and support, improving access to literacy programs, and addressing social and economic barriers that contribute to low literacy levels. Additionally, more attention needs to be given to adult literacy programs, which have historically been underfunded and underrepresented in academic and scientific research.

According to a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. ranks 16th among the 33 OECD nations included in the study. Over 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have a literacy proficiency at or below Level 1, the lowest level defined by the study. Furthermore, several of the counties with the lowest adult literacy performance are located in southern states, such as Texas, where the 10 counties with the highest percentage of their populations at or below Level 1 literacy are located along the U.S.-Mexican border.

In conclusion, while increasing educational attainment is a positive trend, it is not sufficient to address the issue of low literacy rates. Further investigation and action are needed to ensure that all individuals have the literacy skills they need to succeed in life. The effects of low literacy rates are far-reaching and can have a negative impact on individuals, families, and communities. By addressing this issue, we can work towards a more literate, educated, and prosperous society for all.

Works Cited:

APM Research Lab. "Reading the Numbers: 130 Million American Adults Have Low Literacy Skills, but Funding Differs Drastically by State." APM Research Lab, 16 Mar. 2022,

National Center for Education Statistics. "Adult Literacy in the United States." U.S. Department of Education, 2019,

United States Census Bureau. "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2018." 26 Jul. 2018,

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