Literacy Facts


Approximately 1 million Wisconsin adults qualify for adult literacy and English language services (U. S. Census 2000 and NALS 1992). Only 75,000 (or less than 10%) of adults in need of services are currently receiving them.  

18.93 %, or 785,682, Wisconsin adults, age 16 and older are not enrolled in school and do not have a high school diploma.  

7.3%, or 368,712, residents over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home.  

From 1990 to 2000, the Hispanic or Latino population in Wisconsin more than doubled (107% increase) (U.S. Census 2000).  

47% of adult females and adult males incarcerated in Wisconsin lack either a high school diploma or its equivalent. 49% read below the ninth grade level.  74% perform math below the ninth grade level (Wisconsin Department of Corrections 2006).  

More than 13,000 basic skills and ESL learners are instructed annually by Wisconsin Literacy member agencies in community, corrections, workplace, family and faith-based literacy settings. (Wisconsin Literacy 2009)  

More than 3,000 trained volunteer tutors provide individualized, goal-oriented adult literacy instruction per year at Wisconsin Literacy member agencies throughout the state. (Wisconsin Literacy 2009)


42% of adults between the ages of 25 and 67 have, at most, a high school education (U.S. Census 2000).  

20% of preschool aged children live in poverty and are likely to be part of families where the parent with the highest education has less than a high school education (National Institute of Family Literacy).  

2/3 of all jobs, and the majority of jobs that pay wages sufficient to support a family, require skills associated with at least some education beyond high school (Carnevale & Derochers, 2003).  

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates that 30 million adults in the U.S. –14% of the country’s adult population – have only the most minimal ability to read and write in English.  

22.2% of the foreign-born population had less than a 9th grade education, compared to 4.7% of the native population (Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau 2000).  

66% of high school graduates do not have the skills and qualifications necessary to attend college (Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute, 2005). 

Almost 50% of adults on welfare do not have a high school diploma or GED (National Institute for Literacy).  

43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, 17% receive food stamps, and 70% have no job or a part-time job (National Institute for Literacy).  

American businesses are estimated to lose over $60 billion in productivity each year due to employees’ lack of basic skills (National Institute for Literacy).