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).