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Demographics -> Overall

Average Scores

  • No Significant change in prose and document literacy between 1992 and 2003
  • Increase in quantitative literacy
Average prose, document and quantative literacy scores of adults: 1992 and 2003

Average prose, document and quantative literacy scores of adults: 1992 and 2003

* Significantly different from 1992.
NOTE: Adults are defined as people 16 years of age and older living in households or prisons. Adults who could not be interviewed due to language spoken or cognitive or mental disabilities (3 percent in 2003 and 4 percent in 1992) are excluded from this figure.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey and 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

By Literacy Level

  • Fewer adults with Below Basic document and quantitative literacy in 2003 than in 1992
  • Fewer adults with Proficient prose and document literacy in 2003 than in 1992

Nonliterate in English

  • 11 million adults
    • Two groups:
    • 7 million who could not answer simple test questions
    • 4 million who could not take the test because of language barriers
Percentage of adults in each prose, document, and quantitative literacy level: 1992 and 2003

Percentage of adults in each prose, document, and quantitative literacy level: 1992 and 2003


* Significantly different from 1992.
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.Adults are defined as people 16 years of age and older living in households or prisons. Adults who could not be interviewed due to language spoken or cognitive or mental disabilities (3 percent in 2003 and 4 percent in 1992) are excluded from this figure.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey and 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

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Number of Adults in Each Prose Literacy Level

Prose Literacy

  • Below Basic:
    • no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills
  • Basic:
    • can perform simple and everyday literacy activities
  • Intermediate:
    • can perform moderately challenging literacy activities
  • Proficient:
    • can perform complex and challenging literacy activities
Number of Adults in Each Prose Literacy Level

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Adults With Below Basic Prose Literacy

Performance in 2003

  • Several population groups are overrepresented in the Below Basic level.
    For example, 55 percent of adults with Below Basic prose literacy did not graduate from high school, compared to 15 percent of adults in the general population.
  Percent in Prose Below Basic Population Percent in Total NAAL Population
Did not graduate from high school 55 15
No English spoken before starting school 44 13
Hispanic adults 39 12
Black adults 20 12
Age 65+ 26 15
Multiple disabilities 21 9

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