Over 2 million New York City residents can be described as being functionally illiterate– that’s 25% of the total population in the city. Unfortunately, it’s largely a hidden epidemic causing negative consequences on the individual’s life and society as a whole.

What’s more profound is the human cost to families and communities where illiteracy is the norm, rather than the exception. Interpersonal relationships among family and community members where there are high rates of illiteracy are dauntingly less rewarding and less healthy than in communities where educational levels are higher.

Illiteracy Correlates With Poverty and Unemployment

Millions of adults struggling with basic literacy skills are effectively shut out of an already tough labor market. Low literacy prevents them from having the technological skills, and knowledge of health and personal finances, that they need to realize their potential. Many people without a high school education constantly live in or near poverty.

Poverty and Illiteracy in NYC


Every Dollar Spent On Adult Literacy Generates Payback of $7.14

Other statistics reveal that a more literate workforce translates into higher individual incomes and triggers a host of beneficial side effects.

Poverty and Illiteracy in NYC


Family programs with adult literacy components receive a $7.14
payback for every 1 dollar they spend, due to:
  • Increased earnings from better jobs
  • Additional taxes paid by participants on their higher earnings
  • Lower criminal justice costs, corresponding with lower arrest rates
  • Adults staying in literacy programs needing less public assistance
  • Parents becoming more involved in their children’s education, both at school and at home. These children have fewer health problems and are more likely to stay in school and retain jobs.
  • Enhanced self-esteem; as adults start to succeed, they believe in their own ability to achieve their personal goals and become more positive and productive members of society.