World and U.S. Literacy Rates by UNESCO and NCES

According to a 2013 study published by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the adult literacy rate through 2011 was estimated as 84.1% of the total adult population of the world. The report shows that male literacy was almost 10% higher internationally than female literacy rates.

According to that study (linked here, literacy includes “having basic reading and writing skills.”

In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes information on adult literacy rates. A 1993 study (linked here looked at adult literacy rates along mostly racial lines.

The thought process in that emphasis on race rather than race and gender isn’t stated in the reporting, though the emphasis on race has a clear historical component that is significant.

Going back about 100-years to 1910, the overall literacy rate was rated at 92.3%. White adults were 95% literate while black and other adults rated at 69.5% literate. This disparity, while appalling, was a dramatic improvement from the Reconstruction years following the US Civil War.

While my aim here is largely to compare adult literacy rates today to 100-years ago, we’ll end today’s look at literacy with a look at 1979 values in the US. Overall, 99.4% of adults were literate. The white percentage came in at 99.6% compared to 98.4% of black and other populations. Again, the gender-based numbers are not available.

The report concludes with the suggestion “that the overall education level of the [US] population will continue to rise slowly at least into the early 21st century.”

Literacy is a subject that matters to us, and we’ll be coming back to it over time.

Matt – Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Author: Matt and Lynn Digital Blog

Matt and Lynn are a couple living in the Midwest of the United States.

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