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Barbara Bush Foundation Releases Critical Data on Literacy and Equity to Inform State and City Leaders Nationwide

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has released new state- and city-level data tools exploring the connection between literacy, equity and quality of life throughout the U.S.

“We know that literacy is inextricably tied to the strength of our economy, our healthcare system, our families and our futures,” said Barbara Bush Foundation President and CEO British A. Robinson. “These new data tools will provide state and local leadership, educators and philanthropists with critical information on low literacy’s intersection with some of the most pressing issues faced by their citizens – many of which have been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis – showing that investments in literacy will pay dividends in their communities for generations to come.”

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Today, 36 million American adults are unable to read, write and comprehend at basic levels. This crisis prevents 1 in 5 adults from fully engaging in our society as parents, workers and citizens, lying at the core of multigenerational cycles of poverty, poor health and low educational attainment.

The Foundation’s Literacy Gap Map shows the relationship of literacy to health, income and education nationwide – putting low literacy and its devastating effects on the map to inform resource development and decision making. In addition to county-level data, the map provides information on all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 21 key cities – including AtlantaChicagoLos AngelesNew York and Washington, D.C. – to illustrate low literacy’s impact on key metro areas.

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The new state- and city-level tools provide a snapshot of vital data including:

  • Adult literacy levels
  • Fourth-grade reading levels
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Median income
  • High school diploma attainment
  • Healthcare access

These new resources offer a regional perspective on adult literacy’s connection with prosperity, equity and quality of life, reinforcing national level research that has shown:

  • A mother’s education level is the single greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors such as neighborhood and family income.
  • Federal, state and local governments stand to gain an additional $2.5 billion in tax revenue and reduced expenses for every 400,000 adults who earn a high school diploma.
  • Limited health literacy is estimated to result in excess costs between $50 billion and $73 billion per year for the U.S. healthcare system.

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