Breaking down the long-term impact of illiteracy

“Literacy is the jump-off point from which all of life’s successes take flight.” – Laurie Fortino

Knowledge is power, and literacy provides people the ability to learn and utilize information autonomously – it gives people a voice with which they can improve their lives and the world around them. While higher literacy rates lead to more equality, opportunity and economic growth, lower rates of literacy have the opposite effect. The impact of illiteracy is not isolated to an individual, region or time period. The perpetuation of illiteracy leads to heavy consequences. Below, we break down a few.

Illiteracy increases probability of dropouts.

The ability to read and write is the essential foundation of any education. From an early age, reading levels are a strong predictor of a student’s ability, or likely desire, to complete their high school education. In fact, over 70% of inmates in the United States cannot read above a fourth grade level. When literacy rates are low in an area, there is a higher percentage of high school dropouts.

Illiteracy increases likelihood of imprisonment.

Dropping out of high school can be an indicator of future crime or delinquent behavior. Students who drop out of high school are five times more likely to be incarcerated than peers with a high school diploma. And, research shows that 85% of juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate, and juvenile delinquency further increases a student’s probability of incarceration later in life.

Illiteracy stunts important behavioral, social and emotional growth.

Illiteracy creates a trail of interconnected outcomes, rather than isolated effects. In addition to outlining a path of poor education and crime, illiteracy also affects a person’s social, emotional and behavioral skills. Individuals who are illiterate or low literate often struggle with self-esteem or peer connection regarding their intelligence, which can lead to higher rates of poor academic behavior and more instances of acting out. 

Illiteracy decreases employability.

The ability to read is a crucial skill most jobs require. The inability to functionally read, write or discern important information makes it difficult to find employment that provides a consistent, liveable income. Take the first step against illiteracy by supporting ALLMemphis. Join us in our mission to increase literacy rates, create equitable education for all and improve individual and community outcomes.