• Adult Literacy

Literacy Levels

The federal government measures adult literacy in five levels.

People with Level 1 Literacy can:

  • Locate one piece of information in a sports article
  • Locate the expiration date on a driver’s license
  • Total a bank deposit entry

People with Level 2 Literacy can:

  • Interpret appliance warranty instructions
  • Locate an intersection on a street map
  • Calculate postage and fees when using certified mail

People with Level 3 Literacy can:

  • Write a brief letter to explain a credit card billing error
  • Use a bus schedule to choose the correct bus to take to get to work on time
  • Determine the discount on a car insurance bill if paid in full within 15 days

People with Level 4 Literacy can:

  • Explain the difference between two types of benefits at work
  • Calculate the correct change when given prices on a menu

People with Level 5 Literacy can:

  • Compare and summarize different approaches lawyers use during a trial
  • Use information in a table to compare two credit cards and explain the differences
  • Compute the cost to carpet a room in a house

Literacy levels increase as educational levels increase:

Overall literacy levels of individuals with a high school diploma or GED equivalent, which is the highest educational level of 30 percent of Cuyahoga County residents ages 25 and older, is Level 2.

Individuals who do not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, which includes 18 percent of Cuyahoga County residents ages 25 and older, have Level 1 or low Level 2 literacy skills.

Literacy levels of individuals with at least some post-secondary education increase to Level 3.

The National Adult Literacy Survey, conducted for the U.S. Department of Education in 1992 and 2005, notes that those individuals with Level 1 and Level 2 literacy skills are likely to be excluded from all but minimum wage work. The National Governors’ Association and the National Education Goals panel concluded that Level 3 Literacy is the minimum necessary to function in today’s society.

The National Adult Literacy Survey also examined the relationship between learners’ literacy and employment industry groups. Adults employed in most industry groups had mean literacy proficiencies in the Level 3 range, including finance, insurance, real estate, public administration, services, transportation, communications, utilities and trade. Adults employed in manufacturing, construction, mining, farming, forestry and fishing had mean literacy proficiencies at the high end of Level 2. Not a single industry group comprised employees with a mean literacy of Level 1.