Adult Literacy

What Are Some Important Poverty Literacy Statistics?

Poverty literacy statistics give us insight into geographic areas where literacy programs are most needed, where programs are effective, and how lives are changed when reading programs are utilized.

Here are some statistics:

Illiteracy is most prevalent in developing countries.1

South Asian, Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries are regions with the highest illiteracy rates at about 40 to 50 percent.1

East Asia and Latin America have illiteracy rates in the 10–15 percent region, while developed countries have illiteracy rates of a few percent.1

“In many countries more than 95% have basic literacy skills. Literacy skills of the majority of the population is a modern achievement … Globally, however, large inequalities remain, notably between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. In Burkina Faso, Niger and South Sudan – the African countries at the bottom of the rank – literacy rates are still below 30%.”2

As a whole, the global literacy rate is high. The literacy rate for all males and females that are at least 15 years old is 86.3%. Males aged 15 and over have a literacy rate of 90%, while females lag at just 82.7%. Developed nations as a whole have a literacy rate of 99.2%. Most of the illiterate adults live in South Asia, West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Of all of the illiterate adults in the world, nearly two-thirds are female. In total, there are about 281 million adults worldwide that can’t read or write.”3

What are the impacts of literacy?

“The ‘multiplier effect’ of literacy empowers people, enables them to participate fully in society and contributes to improve livelihoods. Literacy is also a driver for sustainable development in that it enables greater participation in the labour market; improved child and family health and nutrition; reduces poverty and expands life opportunities.”4

1 “Literacy”. Wikipedia. Accessed 14 July 2019.
2 Accessed 12 May 2021.
3 Accessed 12 May 2021.
4 Literacy. UNESCO. Accessed 12 July 2019.