Literacy Statistics in The United States

Literacy Statistics in The United States

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the literacy rate for adults (age 16 and older) in the United States was 86% in 2018. However, this number varies widely depending on factors such as education level, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. It is estimated that the literacy rate plummets in disadvantaged populations.

For example, adults who did not complete high school have significantly lower literacy rates, with only 65% being proficient in basic literacy skills. Similarly, Black and Hispanic adults have lower literacy rates than White and Asian adults. It is likely that many of those who did not graduate high school may have been unable to complete their education due to illiteracy.


Reading proficiency among children, the most recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only 35% of fourth-graders and 34% of eighth-graders were proficient in reading in 2019.

These statistics highlight the ongoing need for efforts to improve literacy rates in the United States, particularly among historically marginalized communities.


Studies have shown that a high proportion of the prison population has low literacy skills. In the United States, for example, it’s estimated that around 70% of inmates have low literacy levels.


  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Adult Literacy in the United States.
  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students in an International Context.