130 million adults in the U.S. lack proficiency in literacy.
130 million Americans—54% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 years old—lack proficiency in literacy, essentially reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.

Often, counties with the lowest literacy rates are the same areas that experience poor health, poverty, and low economic mobility.

There is a strong regional divide. The Midwest and Northeast have much higher and more regionally consistent literacy rates. In the South and West, literacy rates can vary widely from county to county.

The last National Assessment for Adult Literacy took place in 2003. Although surveys on adult literacy have continued through PIAAC, data on this subject remains sparse. There is room for more data to be collected in order to help us understand adult literacy in the United States.

There is a significant need for this data to be collected and reported more consistently.

Adults who lack proficiency in literacy are defined as those who score level 2 or below on the PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies). Grade level equivalents are estimated, as the PIAAC proficiency levels do not specifically correspond to K-12 grade levels. For more information, visit https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/litproficiencylevel.asp. Fourth grade reading scores come from the NAEP reading assessment. Fourth grade ELA test performance data comes from edopportunity.org. Self-Reported health comes from the Community Health Status Indicators. All other data comes from the American Community Survey. PIAAC data is not available by city. Visit map.barbarabush.org for county-level PIAAC data.