Because low literacy skills affect  almost every aspect of life.

Income is affected

In Orange County, of those  adults who lack a high school diploma or GED, men earn 40% less, and women 60% less than the living wage for a single parent.

Health is affected

Those with low literacy skills often have trouble following directions on medications or following doctors’ instructions.

Everyday life is affected

Low literacy skills make filling out applications, understanding signs and reading labels, helping children with homework, reading the newspaper or being an informed voter difficult.

Facts and Figures

In Orange County, 50% of the adult population has at least a bachelor’s degree. 30% have an advanced degree.  And 15% have trouble reading at a high school level.

For those who struggle with illiteracy, the news is not good:

  • Nationally, 43% of those with low literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those with strong literacy skills.
  • Over 50% of unemployed adults have difficulty reading and writing.  (National Institute for Literacy)
  • In Orange County, of those adults who lack a high school diploma or GED, men earn 40% less, and women 60% less than the living wage for a single parent. (American FactFinder, Living Wage Calculator)
  • The county’s growth industries – healthcare, professional and technical services and administration – require high degrees of skill, certifications and post-secondary education. Most jobs open to those with low literacy skills are in declining or slow growth industries, such as hospitality, agriculture and construction. (Orange County Economic Development Commission, 2007 State of the Local Economy)

Illiteracy is multigenerational.

And new residents add a new dimension.

  • Data models predict the area’s potential immigrant population will grow by 14% between 2007 and 2013.  Half the new residents (49.3%) are expected to come from a variety of Asian countries, the rest (39.6%) from primarily Spanish speaking countries. (Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., March 2007)
  • Those with limited English skills face barriers to economic mobility and integration—about 60% of permanent residents eligible to become citizens may have difficulty taking the naturalization exam because they are limited in English. (Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees)
  • Almost half of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) adults have nine years or less of education, and 64% do not have a high school degree.  (Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees)
  • The ability to speak English is one of the most important factors influencing the economic self-sufficiency of refugees.  Historically, most refugees improve their English language proficiency over time, and those who do not are the least likely to be employed.   (Office of Refugee Resettlement, 2007 Annual Report to Congress)
  • In 1999, only 26% of refugees who did not speak English were employed, compared with 77% of those who spoke English well or fluently.  (Office of Refugee Resettlement, 1999 Annual Report to Congress)