Adult Literacy

Poverty and Literacy Statistics

Poverty often has a negative impact on one’s ability to become literate and obtain education in general. Consider the following poverty and literacy statistics:

  • “Globally, at least 773 million youth and adults still cannot read and write, and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills,” according to UNESCO. “This results in an exclusion of low-literate and low-skilled youth and adults from full participation in their communities and societies.”1
  • “In developing countries, approximately one in every two adults can’t read or write, with the situation only worse in the rural areas, especially for women and minors,” according to the Borgen Project.2
  • “Factors linked to poverty such as unemployment, illness and the illiteracy of parents, multiply the risk of non-schooling and the drop-out rate of a child by [the age of] 2,” according to Humanium, an international NGO for children’s rights.3
  • “53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school. In poor countries, the level is as high as 80 percent,” according to The World Bank.4
  • “Children who don’t read by age 10—or at the latest, by the end of primary school—typically fail to master reading later in their schooling career,” according to The World Bank.5
  • “Studies have shown the mother’s literacy level is closely related to child health and survival,” according to World Literacy Foundation.6 “If a child’s mother can read, they are 50 percent more likely to live past the age of five, and twice as likely to attend school,” according to Children International, a poverty-fighting charity.7
  • People completely or functionally illiterate are more likely to have poor health, welfare dependency and experience gender inequality.8
  • “Children from low-income households are at risk of low literacy; poverty and low literacy form a cycle that is very difficult to break,” according to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network.9
  • “Low literacy contributes to inequalities in income, occupational status and reduced access to labor markets,” according to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. “Adults with strong literacy skills … maintain salaries of up to 33 percent higher than those of low literacy.”10
  • “One year of education is estimated to increase wage earnings by 10 percent, and in places like sub-Saharan Africa, by as much as 13 percent,” according to the Borgen Project.11
  • “If all students in low-income countries had basic reading skills, 171 million people could escape extreme poverty,” according to Concern Worldwide, a global community working to end extreme poverty.12

Meanwhile, more than 139,000 impoverished children have received education, and practical, assistance through GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program. In 2020, 25,000 women in Asia learned how to read and write through GFA World’s adult literacy program.

1 “Literacy.” UNESCO. Accessed August 23, 2021.
2 Rolz, Isabella. “How Literacy Reduces Poverty.” Accessed August 24, 2021.
3 “Right to Education: Situation around the world.” Humanium. Accessed August 24, 2021.
4 “What is learning poverty?” The World Bank. April 28, 2021.
5 “What is learning poverty?” The World Bank. April 28, 2021.
6 “Why Literacy?” World Literacy Foundation. Accessed August 23, 2021.
7 “Global poverty and education.” Children International. Accessed August 24, 2021.
8 “Why Literacy?” World Literacy Foundation. Accessed August 23, 2021.
9 “Poverty fact sheet.” Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. January 2012.
10 “Poverty fact sheet.” Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. January 2012.
11 Staesser, Daniel. “The Benefits of Literacy: Five Ways Literacy Fights Poverty.” The Borgen Project. Accessed August 23, 2021.
12 Giovetti, Olivia. “6 Benefits of Literacy in the Fight Against Poverty.” Concern Worldwide US. August 27, 2020.