Low-literate individuals affect the local and global economy. It costs less to educate an adult than to support an adult through welfare programs or incarceration. The cost of illiteracy in the United States is estimated to be over $300 billion, according to a report written by the World Literacy Foundation. In the same report, it is said to cost the global economy $1.2 trillion. Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year.


Family Literacy

The economic benefits of U.S. Family Literacy Programs to the general public, exclusive of increased earnings capacity, are $25,771 per participant (Social and economic benefits of improvedadult literacy: Support document). 

Workforce Development

A High School Equivalency Diploma leads to an average of an increase in income of $9,000 more annually. A low-literate adult earns fifty cents to the dollar of their workplace peers. Adults who participate in literacy services with the goal of workforce development are voluntarily seeking self-sufficiency and will reduce the tax burden of low literacy.

Correctional Education

A 2014 study published by RAND Corporation reported correctional education is a cost effective initiative; every dollar spent on prison education could save up to five dollars on three-year reincarceration costs. In this sense, the direct costs of reincarceration are far greater than the direct costs of providing correctional education.


Obtaining citizenship is beneficial for the entire community. Naturalized immigrants earn between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen. Higher wages mean more consumer spending, and more spending means more growth for the overall economy. More money in the system creates economic growth and supports new job creation for all residents.  Naturalization sends a signal to employers that their workers are fully committed to life in the United States.

Health Literacy

$73 billion is spent annually for health care as a result of low health literacy skills among US adults. Persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to have chronic conditions and are less able to manage them effectively. Studies have found that patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, or HIV/AIDS who have limited health literacy skills have less knowledge of their illness and its management.