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Table 398. Literacy skills of adults, by type of literacy, proficiency levels, and selected characteristics: 1992 and 2003
Selected characteristic Prose literacy1 Document literacy2 Quantitative literacy3
Average score Percent of adults at each proficiency level, 2003 Average score Percent of adults at each proficiency level, 2003 Average score Percent of adults at each proficiency level, 2003
1992 2003 Below basic Basic Intermed-
iate
Profic-
ient
1992 2003 Below basic Basic Intermed-
iate
Profic-
ient
1992 2003 Below basic Basic Intermed-
iate
Profic-
ient
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Total 276 (1.1) 275 (1.3) 14 (0.6) 29 (0.6) 44 (0.7) 13 (0.5) 271 (1.1) 271 (1.2) 12 (0.5) 22 (0.5) 53 (0.7) 13 (0.6) 275 (1.1) 283 (1.2) 22 (0.6) 33 (0.5) 33 (0.5) 13 (0.5)
Sex                                                                        
Male 276 (1.2) 272 (1.5) 15 (0.6) 29 (0.7) 43 (0.7) 13 (0.6) 274 (1.2) 269 (1.5) 14 (0.6) 23 (0.5) 51 (0.8) 13 (0.6) 283 (1.4) 286 (1.3) 21 (0.6) 31 (0.5) 33 (0.5) 16 (0.6)
Female 277 (1.3) 277 (1.4) 12 (0.6) 29 (0.6) 46 (0.8) 14 (0.6) 268 (1.2) 272 (1.2) 11 (0.6) 22 (0.6) 54 (0.8) 13 (0.6) 269 (1.2) 279 (1.3) 22 (0.8) 35 (0.7) 32 (0.7) 11 (0.6)
                                                                         
Age                                                                        
16 to 18 years old 270 (2.3) 267 (2.8) 11 (1.7) 37 (2.5) 48 (2.7) 5 (1.4) 270 (2.2) 268 (2.9) 11 (1.4) 24 (1.8) 56 (2.4) 9 (1.7) 264 (2.5) 267 (3.1) 28 (2.3) 38 (2.1) 28 (2.1) 6 (1.3)
19 to 24 years old 280 (2.0) 276 (2.4) 11 (1.1) 29 (1.3) 48 (1.5) 12 (1.1) 282 (2.2) 277 (2.5) 9 (1.1) 20 (1.2) 58 (1.7) 13 (1.5) 277 (2.0) 279 (2.3) 21 (1.4) 36 (1.3) 33 (1.4) 10 (1.1)
25 to 39 years old 288 (1.3) 283 (1.7) 12 (0.6) 25 (0.7) 45 (0.7) 18 (0.8) 286 (1.2) 282 (1.8) 8 (0.7) 19 (0.7) 56 (1.1) 17 (1.1) 286 (1.3) 292 (1.8) 17 (0.8) 31 (0.8) 35 (0.8) 17 (0.9)
40 to 54 years old 293 (2.0) 282 (2.3) 11 (0.9) 27 (1.1) 47 (1.2) 15 (1.1) 284 (1.9) 277 (1.8) 10 (0.7) 20 (0.8) 54 (1.1) 15 (0.9) 292 (1.8) 289 (1.9) 19 (0.9) 32 (0.8) 34 (0.8) 16 (0.9)
55 to 64 years old 269 (1.4) 278 (1.9) 13 (0.8) 27 (0.9) 44 (1.1) 15 (0.8) 258 (1.4) 270 (2.1) 12 (0.9) 23 (0.9) 54 (1.2) 12 (1.1) 272 (1.8) 289 (1.9) 19 (1.0) 30 (0.8) 34 (0.9) 17 (0.8)
65 years old and older 235 (1.7) 248 (2.0) 23 (1.3) 38 (1.2) 34 (1.4) 4 (0.6) 221 (2.2) 235 (2.0) 27 (1.5) 33 (1.0) 38 (1.4) 3 (0.4) 235 (2.7) 257 (2.2) 34 (1.6) 37 (1.2) 24 (1.2) 5 (0.6)
                                                                         
Race/ethnicity                                                                        
White 287 (1.2) 288 (1.5) 7 (0.5) 25 (0.8) 51 (0.9) 17 (0.9) 281 (1.2) 282 (1.5) 8 (0.5) 19 (0.7) 58 (1.0) 15 (1.0) 288 (1.1) 297 (1.3) 13 (0.7) 32 (0.7) 39 (0.8) 17 (0.8)
Black 237 (1.4) 243 (1.8) 24 (1.4) 43 (1.2) 31 (1.4) 2 (0.4) 230 (1.4) 238 (2.1) 24 (1.7) 35 (1.4) 40 (1.9) 2 (0.5) 222 (1.6) 238 (2.1) 47 (1.8) 36 (1.3) 15 (1.1) 2 (0.4)
Hispanic 234 (2.3) 216 (3.5) 44 (1.8) 30 (1.0) 23 (1.1) 4 (0.4) 238 (1.8) 224 (3.6) 36 (1.6) 26 (0.8) 33 (1.2) 5 (0.5) 233 (2.3) 233 (3.2) 50 (1.7) 29 (0.9) 17 (0.9) 4 (0.5)
Asian/Pacific Islander 255 (6.1) 271 (4.0) 14 (2.0) 32 (2.2) 42 (2.5) 12 (1.8) 259 (6.1) 272 (5.0) 11 (2.2) 22 (2.1) 54 (3.0) 13 (2.3) 268 (7.8) 285 (5.1) 19 (3.0) 34 (2.9) 35 (2.8) 12 (2.5)
                                                                         
Highest level of education                                                                        
Still in high school 268 (2.5) 262 (3.7) 14 (2.5) 37 (2.8) 45 (3.1) 4 (1.5) 270 (2.4) 265 (4.3) 13 (2.3) 24 (2.2) 54 (3.0) 9 (1.9) 263 (3.2) 261 (4.2) 31 (2.9) 38 (2.5) 25 (2.3) 5 (1.4)
Less than high school completion 216 (1.4) 207 (2.4) 50 (1.4) 33 (1.0) 16 (0.9) 1 (0.2) 211 (1.5) 208 (2.6) 45 (1.4) 29 (0.7) 25 (1.0) 2 (0.3) 209 (2.1) 211 (2.2) 64 (1.3) 25 (0.8) 10 (0.7) 1 (0.2)
GED/high school equivalency 265 (2.2) 260 (2.1) 10 (1.8) 45 (2.9) 43 (3.0) 3 (1.1) 259 (2.3) 257 (2.5) 13 (1.9) 30 (2.3) 53 (2.8) 4 (1.2) 265 (2.3) 265 (3.1) 26 (3.1) 43 (3.1) 28 (2.9) 3 (1.2)
High school graduate 268 (1.0) 262 (1.3) 13 (1.0) 39 (1.2) 44 (1.3) 4 (0.6) 261 (1.4) 258 (1.5) 13 (1.0) 29 (1.1) 52 (1.4) 5 (0.7) 267 (1.2) 269 (1.6) 24 (1.4) 42 (1.3) 29 (1.3) 5 (0.7)
Vocational/trade/business 278 (2.1) 268 (2.7) 10 (1.8) 36 (2.6) 49 (2.7) 5 (1.5) 273 (2.0) 267 (2.5) 9 (1.5) 26 (2.3) 59 (2.7) 7 (1.7) 280 (2.2) 279 (2.2) 18 (2.1) 41 (2.3) 35 (2.3) 6 (1.4)
Some college 292 (1.4) 287 (1.6) 5 (0.7) 25 (1.4) 59 (1.7) 11 (1.4) 288 (1.6) 280 (1.7) 5 (0.8) 19 (1.3) 65 (1.8) 10 (1.5) 295 (1.7) 294 (1.7) 10 (1.2) 36 (1.8) 43 (1.8) 11 (1.5)
Associate's degree 306 (1.9) 298 (2.4) 4 (0.7) 20 (1.5) 56 (2.0) 19 (2.0) 301 (1.9) 291 (2.0) 3 (0.7) 15 (1.5) 66 (2.3) 16 (2.2) 305 (2.0) 305 (2.1) 7 (1.1) 30 (1.9) 45 (2.1) 18 (2.1)
Bachelor's degree 325 (1.9) 314 (2.1) 3 (0.5) 14 (1.0) 53 (1.7) 31 (1.8) 317 (1.9) 303 (2.2) 2 (0.6) 11 (1.2) 62 (2.5) 25 (2.7) 324 (1.8) 323 (1.8) 4 (0.6) 22 (1.2) 43 (1.5) 31 (1.9)
Graduate studies/degree 340 (2.0) 327 (2.8) 1 (0.4) 10 (1.2) 48 (2.3) 41 (2.6) 328 (1.9) 311 (2.2) 1 (0.4) 9 (1.1) 59 (2.6) 31 (2.8) 336 (2.1) 332 (2.1) 3 (0.6) 18 (1.5) 43 (2.1) 36 (2.6)
                                                                         
Employment                                                                        
Full-time 290 (1.3) 285 (1.5) (†) (†) (†) (†) 286 (†) 281 (†) (†) (†) (†) (†) 292 (1.3) 296 (1.1) (†) (†) (†) (†)
Part-time 285 (1.7) 281 (2.2) (†) (†) (†) (†) 279 (†) 277 (†) (†) (†) (†) (†) 281 (1.7) 287 (2.2) (†) (†) (†) (†)
Unemployed 263 (2.3) 269 (2.8) (†) (†) (†) (†) 261 (†) 265 (†) (†) (†) (†) (†) 261 (3.2) 270 (3.6) (†) (†) (†) (†)
Not in labor force 252 (1.4) 255 (1.7) (†) (†) (†) (†) 244 (†) 250 (†) (†) (†) (†) (†) 247 (1.9) 261 (1.8) (†) (†) (†) (†)
                                                                         
Language spoken before starting
   school
                                                                       
English only 282 (1.2) 283 (1.4) 9 (0.5) 27 (0.7) 49 (0.8) 15 (0.7) 275 (1.2) 276 (1.3) 9 (0.5) 21 (0.6) 56 (0.8) 13 (0.7) 280 (1.2) 289 (1.2) 18 (0.6) 33 (0.6) 35 (0.6) 15 (0.6)
English and Spanish 255 (2.9) 262 (3.1) 14 (2.1) 38 (2.2) 42 (2.4) 6 (1.3) 253 (3.6) 259 (3.4) 12 (2.5) 29 (3.0) 54 (3.8) 5 (1.8) 247 (4.6) 261 (3.8) 31 (3.3) 39 (2.6) 26 (2.8) 4 (1.3)
English and other language 273 (4.0) 278 (3.1) 7 (1.5) 33 (2.8) 51 (3.1) 9 (2.1) 260 (4.5) 268 (3.2) 10 (2.0) 25 (2.3) 57 (2.9) 8 (2.0) 271 (5.6) 289 (4.1) 15 (2.7) 38 (2.7) 34 (3.0) 14 (2.6)
Spanish 205 (2.9) 188 (3.8) 61 (1.8) 25 (1.1) 13 (0.9) 1 (0.3) 216 (2.8) 199 (4.6) 49 (2.0) 25 (1.0) 23 (1.3) 3 (0.4) 212 (3.3) 211 (4.6) 62 (2.2) 25 (1.2) 11 (1.1) 2 (0.5)
Other language 239 (3.4) 249 (4.6) 26 (2.2) 33 (2.0) 34 (2.3) 7 (1.3) 241 (3.7) 257 (4.2) 20 (1.9) 24 (1.3) 46 (2.0) 10 (1.2) 246 (4.3) 270 (4.3) 28 (2.3) 33 (1.7) 29 (1.9) 10 (1.5)
—Not available.
†Not applicable.
1 Prose literacy refers to the knowledge and skills needed to search, comprehend, and use information from continuous texts. Adults at the Below Basic level, rated 0 to 209, range from being nonliterate in English to being able to locate easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose texts. At the Basic level, rated 210 to 264, adults are able to read and understand information in short, commonplace prose texts. At the Intermediate level, rated 265 to 339, adults are able to read and understand moderately dense, less commonplace prose texts as well as summarize, make simple inferences, determine cause and effect, and recognize author's purpose. At the Proficient level, rated 340 to 500, adults are able to read lengthy, complex, abstract prose texts as well as synthesize information and make complex inferences.
2 Document literacy refers to the knowledge and skills needed to search, comprehend, and use information from noncontinuous texts in various formats. Adults at the Below Basic level, rated 0 to 204, range from being nonliterate in English to being able to locate easily identifiable information and follow instructions in simple documents (e.g., charts or forms). At the Basic level, rated 205 to 249, adults are able to read and understand information in simple documents. At the Intermediate level, rated 250 to 334, adults are able to locate information in dense, complex documents and make simple inferences about the information. At the Proficient level, rated 335 to 500, adults are able to integrate, synthesize, and analyze multiple pieces of information located in complex documents.
3 Quantitative literacy refers to the knowledge and skills required to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials. Adults at the Below Basic level, rated 0 to 234, range from being nonliterate in English to being able to locate numbers and use them to perform simple quantitative operations (primarily addition) when the mathematical information is very concrete and familiar. At the Basic level, rated 235 to 289, adults are able to locate easily identifiable quantitative information and use it to solve simple, one-step problems when the arithmetic operation is specified or easily inferred. At the Intermediate level, rated 290 to 349, adults are able to locate less familiar quantitative information and use it to solve problems when the arithmetic operation is not specified or easily inferred. At the Proficient level, rated 350 to 500, adults are able to locate more abstract quantitative information and use it to solve multistep problems when the arithmetic operations are not easily inferred and the problems are more complex.
NOTE: Adults are defined as people age 16 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 table. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Totals include racial/ethnic groups not separately shown. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) and 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century; and supplemental data retrieved July 6, 2006, from http://nces.ed.gov/naal/Excel/2006470_DataTable.xls. (This table was prepared July 2006.)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education