55 US Literacy Statistics: Literacy Rate, Average Reading Level

Find the latest U.S. literacy statistics, including the U.S. literacy rate, average reading level, and more.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
November 29, 2022
10
min read

Top 10 U.S. Literacy Rate Statistics

  1. Nationwide, on average, 79% of U.S. adults are literate in 2022. 21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022.
  2. 54% of adults have a literacy below sixth-grade level.
  3. 21% of Americans 18 and older are illiterate in 2022.
  4. Low literacy rates end up costing Americans up to $2.2 trillion every year.
  5. 34% of the people 18 and older with low literacy proficiency weren't born in the United States.
  6. The state with the highest rate of child literacy is Massachusetts, with over 80% of kids there having good proficiency in reading.
  7. New Mexico has the lowest literacy rate for children, with over 30% of the state's children being illiterate.
  8. New Hampshire has the most people 18 and older that are literate, with over 90% of them knowing how to read and write.
  9. California has the lowest literacy rate in the country, with 23% of them having little to no proficiency in reading skills.
  10. Throughout the US, there were 66% of children in the fourth grade couldn't read well in 2013.
us literacy statistics
Source


Average Reading Level In The U.S.

The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, according to The Literacy Project.

Read More: Reading Statistics

Child Literacy Statistics

Literacy Statistics
Source
  • Based on research conducted, the reading scores for the majority of kids between the fourth and eighth grades were higher in 2017 than the scores made in 1992, though not higher than the scores two years prior.
  • The gap in performance between specific ethnic groups, like black and white students from white and Hispanics, was lowered between the years 1992 and 2017, but not too drastically from 2015 to 2017.
  • The average eighth-grade girl scored 10 points more than the eighth-grade boys did in reading exams in 2017.
  • Students in the fourth grade improved their reading by 5 points from 1992 to 2017, with eighth-grade kids improving theirs by 7 points from the same period.
  • The best three states with the lowest child literacy rates are Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Hampshire.
  • States with the highest rates of child literacy are Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.
  • Throughout the United States, 68% of fourth-grade students in 2013 could read with proficiency, a 6% boost since 2003.

Child Literacy Rates by State (4th Grade)

State Rank (lower is better) Students Not Reading Proficiently (%) Lower Income Students Not Reading Proficiently (%) Higher Income Students Not Reading Proficiently (%) Improvement since 2003 (%)
Alabama 35 69 82 51 12
Alaska 44 73 85 60 -1
Arizona 40 72 85 57 6
Arkansas 32 68 78 54 6
California 43 73 85 54 8
Colorado 8 59 79 54 6
Connecticut 5 57 81 43 0
Delaware 13 62 75 48 7
District of Columbia 45 77 87 39 14
Florida 12 61 73 42 10
Georgia 26 66 79 47 10
Hawaii 37 70 83 57 11
Idaho 31 67 78 56 4
Illinois 28 66 84 48 4
Indiana 14 (tied) 62 75 49 7
Iowa 16 62 77 52 5
Kansas 14 (tied) 62 78 46 7
Kentucky 21 64 77 49 7
Louisiana 46 77 85 58 4
Maine 19 (tied) 63 76 52 2
Maryland 2 55 76 42 19
Massachusetts 1 53 75 38 12
Michigan 34 69 81 58 -1
Minnesota 9 59 77 48 6
Mississippi 47 79 85 58 4
Missouri 23 65 77 51 2
Montana 24 65 78 54 0
Nebraska 19 (tied) 63 77 51 7
Nevada 42 73 83 56 9
New Hampshire 3 55 76 47 8
New Jersey 7 58 78 44 5
New Mexico 48 79 85 61 2
New York 18 63 77 47 5
North Carolina 22 65 78 47 3
North Dakota 29 66 78 60 3
Ohio 17 63 80 48 5
Oklahoma 36 70 79 57 5
Oregon 30 67 79 50 3
Pennsylvania 10 60 77 45 10
Rhode Island 15 62 81 45 13
South Carolina 39 72 83 54 3
South Dakota 33 68 82 58 -1
Tennessee 27 66 82 48 11
Texas 38 72 83 53 -1
Utah 20 (tied) 63 76 54 7
Vermont 6 58 74 46 8
Virginia 4 57 79 44 12
Washington 11 60 77 47 10
West Virginia 41 73 76 63 -3
Wisconsin 25 65 80 53 3
Wyoming 20 (tied) 63 76 54 5
Average 24 66 80 49 6

Adult Literacy Statistics

  • The literacy rate for Americans aged 18 and older is 88%.
  • From 2012 to 2017, a survey conducted with 12,330 adult participants aged between 16 and 74 had a mean score of 264 out of 500 on a literacy test. There were participants from every state and county within the total that took the exam.
  • Literacy rates in the US correlate with the number of immigrants residing in a specific state, whether or not they're legal or illegal. States with large numbers of legal and illegal immigrants have a 60% greater chance of illiteracy rates being above 20% for the adult population.

Adult Literacy Rate and PIACC Score Estimate by State

State Literacy Rate (%) Literacy Rank PIACC Estimate PIACC Rank
Alabama 85.2 39 259 44
Alaska 90.8 19 277 5
Arizona 86.9 33 262 37
Arkansas 86.3 37 259 45
California 76.9 50 257 46
Colorado 90.1 22 272 16
Connecticut 91.4 15 271 18
Delaware 89.3 26 264 34
District of Columbia n/a n/a 277 4
Florida 80.3 48 259 43
Georgia 83.3 45 260 39
Hawaii 84.1 40 270 22
Idaho 89.5 25 270 24
Illinois 87.1 32 266 31
Indiana 92.0 12 266 27
Iowa 92.5 9 273 9
Kansas 92.2 11 271 19
Kentucky 87.8 29 261 38
Louisiana 84.0 41 252 51
Maine 92.6 8 273 11
Maryland 88.8 27 268 26
Massachusetts 90.1 23 273 13
Michigan 91.7 13 271 21
Minnesota 94.0 2 279 2
Mississippi 84.0 42 252 49
Missouri 92.5 10 266 30
Montana 91.2 16 273 14
Nebraska 92.7 6 271 17
Nevada 83.9 43 255 47
New Hampshire 94.2 1 279 1
New Jersey 83.1 46 264 33
New Mexico 83.5 44 252 50
New York 77.9 49 260 42
North Carolina 86.4 36 265 32
North Dakota 93.7 3 276 6
Ohio 90.9 18 268 25
Oklahoma 87.7 30 263 35
Oregon 89.8 24 273 10
Pennsylvania 87.4 31 266 28
Rhode Island 91.5 14 266 29
South Carolina 85.3 38 263 36
South Dakota 93.0 5 271 20
Tennessee 86.8 34 260 40
Texas 81.0 47 254 48
Utah 90.6 20 274 8
Vermont 93.4 4 277 3
Virginia 88.0 28 270 23
Washington 90.2 21 275 7
West Virginia 86.6 35 260 41
Wisconsin 92.7 7 273 12
Wyoming 91.1 17 272 15
Average 88 25.5 264 26

Literacy Rate By Country

If you're looking for a chart to show you the countries with the highest literacy rates, look below:

CountryLiteracy Rate
Andorra100.0 %
Finland100.0 %
Holy See100.0 %
Liechtenstein100.0 %
Luxembourg100.0 %
Norway100.0 %
Democratic People's Republic of Korea100.0 %
Latvia100.0 %
Estonia100.0 %
Lithuania100.0 %
Azerbaijan100.0 %
Poland100.0 %
Cuba100.0 %
Tajikistan100.0 %
Georgia100.0 %
Armenia100.0 %
Ukraine100.0 %
Kazakhstan100.0 %
Slovenia100.0 %
Barbados100.0 %
Russian Federation100.0 %
Turkmenistan100.0 %
Belarus100.0 %
Slovakia100.0 %
Palau100.0 %
Uzbekistan100.0 %
Tonga99.0 %
Kyrgyzstan99.0 %
Republic of Moldova99.0 %
Croatia99.0 %
Italy99.0 %
Hungary99.0 %
Australia99.0 %
Belgium99.0 %
Canada99.0 %
Czech Republic99.0 %
Denmark99.0 %
France99.0 %
Germany99.0 %
Iceland99.0 %
Ireland99.0 %
Japan99.0 %
Monaco99.0 %
Netherlands99.0 %
New Zealand99.0 %
Sweden99.0 %
Switzerland99.0 %
Tuvalu99.0 %
United Kingdom99.0 %
Samoa99.0 %
Antigua and Barbuda99.0 %
Trinidad and Tobago99.0 %
Micronesia (Federated States of)99.0 %
Cyprus99.0 %
Romania99.0 %
Montenegro98.0 %
Maldives98.0 %
Bulgaria98.0 %
Marshall Islands98.0 %
Bosnia and Herzegovina98.0 %
Mongolia98.0 %
Uruguay98.0 %
Austria98.0 %
Argentina98.0 %
Serbia98.0 %
Republic of Korea98.0 %
Grenada98.0 %
Israel98.0 %
Spain98.0 %
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia98.0 %
Greece97.0 %
Costa Rica97.0 %
Saint Kitts and Nevis97.0 %
Albania97.0 %
Chile97.0 %
Thailand96.0 %
Qatar96.0 %
Brunei Darussalam96.0 %
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines96.0 %
San Marino96.0 %
Singapore96.0 %
Kuwait96.0 %
Bahamas96.0 %
Philippines95.0 %
Nauru95.0 %
China95.0 %
Cook Islands95.0 %
State of Palestine95.0 %
Equatorial Guinea95.0 %
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)95.0 %
Suriname95.0 %
Bahrain95.0 %
Portugal94.0 %
Saudi Arabia94.0 %
Panama94.0 %
Seychelles94.0 %
Paraguay94.0 %
Peru94.0 %
Fiji94.0 %
Viet Nam94.0 %
Colombia93.0 %
Malta93.0 %
Malaysia93.0 %
Mexico93.0 %
South Africa93.0 %
Indonesia93.0 %
Myanmar93.0 %
Turkey93.0 %
Jordan93.0 %
Bolivia (Plurinational State of)92.0 %
Ecuador92.0 %
Dominica92.0 %
Sri Lanka91.0 %
Brazil90.0 %
Libya90.0 %
United Arab Emirates90.0 %
Lebanon90.0 %
Dominican Republic90.0 %
Saint Lucia90.0 %
Mauritius89.0 %
Jamaica88.0 %
Botswana87.0 %
Burundi87.0 %
Oman87.0 %
United States86.0 %
Syrian Arab Republic86.0 %
Cabo Verde85.0 %
Guyana85.0 %
Honduras85.0 %
El Salvador84.0 %
Vanuatu84.0 %
Iran (Islamic Republic of)84.0 %
Zimbabwe84.0 %
Swaziland83.0 %
Belize83.0 %
Gabon82.0 %
Congo79.0 %
Iraq79.0 %
Tunisia79.0 %
Guatemala78.0 %
Nicaragua78.0 %
Solomon Islands77.0 %
Comoros77.0 %
Namibia76.0 %
Lesotho76.0 %
Democratic Republic of the Congo75.0 %
Sudan74.0 %
Cambodia74.0 %
Uganda73.0 %
Lao People's Democratic Republic73.0 %
Algeria73.0 %
Kenya72.0 %
Egypt72.0 %
Eritrea72.0 %
Ghana71.0 %
Cameroon71.0 %
Angola71.0 %
Sao Tome and Principe70.0 %
India69.0 %
United Republic of Tanzania68.0 %
Yemen68.0 %
Morocco67.0 %
Rwanda66.0 %
Madagascar64.0 %
Papua New Guinea63.0 %
Zambia61.0 %
Malawi61.0 %
Togo60.0 %
Bangladesh60.0 %
Nepal60.0 %
Timor-Leste58.0 %
Guinea-Bissau58.0 %
Pakistan55.0 %
Gambia53.0 %
Bhutan53.0 %
Senegal52.0 %
Nigeria51.0 %
Mozambique51.0 %
Haiti49.0 %
Sierra Leone46.0 %
Mauritania46.0 %
Liberia43.0 %
Côte d'Ivoire41.0 %
Somalia39.0 %
Ethiopia39.0 %
Chad38.0 %
Central African Republic37.0 %
Afghanistan32.0 %
Mali31.0 %
Burkina Faso29.0 %
Benin29.0 %
South Sudan27.0 %
Guinea25.0 %
Niger15.0 %
DjiboutiNA
KiribatiNA
NiueNA
  • A literacy rate that stays close to 100% is seen in quite a few other countries of the world, including Azerbaijan and Cuba.
  • 86% of the world's population that's 15 years old and above is literate.
  • Of all the nations of the world, over 95% of them have citizens with literary skills that are rudimentary, a near-contemporary achievement.
  • Countries with a literacy rate below 30% include Niger, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan.
  • North Korea has one of the highest rates of literacy in the world, near or at 100% of the total population with proficiency in reading.
  • In 2018, Uzbekistan recorded a literacy rate of 99.99% of the population with reading skills.
  • 99.97% of the Ukrainian population could read, according to estimates made in 2012.
  • In San Marino, 99.92% of the population could read, based on a 2018 estimate.
  • Latvia recorded a 99.89% literacy rate in 2018, placing it in the top 10 countries with the best reading proficiencies in the world.
  • In 2016, Chad was the least literate country in the world, with just 22.31% of the population knowing how to read.
  • In 2014, Guinea had a 32% literacy rate, one of the world's lowest.
  • Mali showed a literacy rate of 35.47% in 2018.
  • Afghanistan had a literacy rate of 43.02% in 2018, though significantly better than in years past.
  • Central African Republic has a literacy rate of 37.40% placing it in the top ten lowest in the world.

Literacy Rate By State

List of literacy rates by state:

  1. New Hampshire – 88.50%
  2. Alaska – 87.30%
  3. Vermont – 87.20%
  4. Minnesota – 86.90%
  5. Montana – 86.90%
  6. Maine – 86.60%
  7. North Dakota – 86.60%
  8. Wyoming – 86.40%
  9. Utah – 85.50%
  10. Iowa – 85.10%
  11. South Dakota – 85.10%
  12. Wisconsin – 84.70%
  13. Hawaii – 84.10%
  14. Washington – 83.90%
  15. Idaho – 83.60%
  16. Nebraska – 83.60%
  17. Colorado – 83.40%
  18. Oregon – 83.20%
  19. Kansas – 83.10%
  20. Connecticut – 82.80%
  21. Massachusetts – 82.70%
  22. Michigan – 82.40%
  23. Ohio – 82.30%
  24. Pennsylvania – 81.90%
  25. Indiana – 81.30%
  26. Virginia – 81.20%
  27. Missouri – 81.10%
  28. Maryland – 80%
  29. Oklahoma – 79.90%
  30. Delaware – 79.70%
  31. Illinois – 79.60%
  32. Rhode Island – 79.60%
  33. New Jersey – 79.30%
  34. West Virginia – 79.10%
  35. North Carolina – 78.70%
  36. Tennessee – 78.30%
  37. Kentucky – 78.10%
  38. District of Columbia – 77.70%
  39. South Carolina – 77.60%
  40. Arkansas – 76.90%
  41. Arizona – 76.60%
  42. Georgia – 76.40%
  43. Florida – 76.30%
  44. Alabama – 76.10%
  45. New York – 75.60%
  46. Nevada – 74.70%
  47. Louisiana – 72.90%
  48. Mississippi – 72%
  49. Texas – 71.80%
  50. California – 71.60%
  51. New Mexico – 70.90%

Literacy Statistics By State

  • New Hampshire has 5.8 of adults that lack basic proficiency in reading, placing the state ahead of the rest with a 94.2% literacy rate.
  • 36.6% of adults living in New Hampshire possess a graduate-level degree or higher, which is the 7th highest rate in the nation.
  • 60.8% of New Hampshire residents are registered at a local library.
  • Minnesota has a literacy rate of 94%, the nation's second highest.
  • 6% of adults in Minnesota lack basic skills for reading and writing, though 69.9% of all state residents are registered users at a library.
  • North Dakota has a literacy rate of 93.7% making it the nation's 3rd highest.
  • California has the lowest literacy rate in America, with 23.1% of adults having inadequate reading proficiency.
  • The state of New York has the second lowest literacy rate, with 22.1% of the population having poor reading abilities. Still, New York has 35.7% of adults with a Bachelor's degree, the country's 9th highest.
  • 19.7% of Florida's adult population have low reading skills, the third lowest rate of literacy rate in the nation.
  • According to researchers, 4 out of 5 Americans 18 and over possess medium to high proficiency in English reading and writing.
  • 1 out of 5 American adults, or 21%, possess low literacy skills, comprising about 43 million people.

Literacy Rate By Gender

Literacy Rate By Gender
Source
  • Since 2020, 90% of men and 83% of women in the world are literate.
  • In 2019, 90.07% of the world's male population was literate, while 83.02% of women were.
  • In 2017, men that could read and write accounted for 89.% of the population, with women making up 82.64% with reading abilities.

Literacy Rate By Age

Globally, 86.3% is the literacy rate for people 15 years of age and older.

Literacy Rate By Age

Literacy Rate By Race

  • About 77% of the African American population has moderate to high reading and writing proficiency in the United States.
  • 66% of the Hispanic population has medium to high literacy in America, with 65% of whites having moderate to high literacy.

Sources

  1. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/skillsmap/
  2. https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/us-literacy-rates-by-state
  3. https://ourworldindata.org/literacy
  4. https://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/02/07/states-where-children-are-struggling-the-most-to-read/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_in_the_United_States
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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