Relationship between Low Literacy Levels and Poverty Levels

Relationship between Low Literacy Levels and Poverty Levels



Relationship between Low Literacy Levels and Poverty Levels

Education is a vital aspect of life. It is championed through public policies and is a global goal for many societies. Individuals who have acquired education are literate and often succeed in life. However, there are unfortunate cases where people do not receive proper and adequate education and hence, have low literacy levels. Literacy levels can be defined as the state of being able to read, write, and comprehend various academic phenomena. Education has been directly linked to poverty. Alleviation of poverty is one of the Millennium Development Goals 2015 (MDGs 2015). These international developmental goals were set by the United Nations in the year 2000. Studies reveal that poverty levels in the United States have risen over the past decades and one of the major contributing factors is low literacy levels. According to the United States census Bureau, poverty level is the degree and distance from the poverty line. The poverty line is drawn where families earn below $1.25 a day. Individuals who have low literacy levels rarely get proper job opportunities and other income generating activities eventually becoming poor and living in dilapidated conditions. It is evident that low literacy levels increase poverty levels in an economy.

Higher literacy levels that are acquired through education are important in changing people’s mindsets, attitude towards life and eligibility and fitness for a job. This in turn helps them earn an income and generate wealth (, 2015). An educated individual is often open minded, knowledgeable, and able to cope with adverse life situations. Poverty, defined as the miserable state of life without basic amenities such as food, water, and clothing, is especially common in some of the minority groups in the United States. For instance, children from high socioeconomic groups often score higher than lower groups. There exists a large gap in scores between African American and Hispanic students and the White and Asian students. Such students eventually have low literacy levels, which affect their socioeconomic status as they end up in poverty. At least 30% of students fail to graduate from high school, and often turn to crime and increase government expenditure on their healthcare and housing (, 2015). Poorly educated children have limited opportunities in life and are unable to generate wealth and live in miserable conditions.

Studies have shown that illiterate adults have higher chances of having poor health; economic exploitation and constitute the largest percentile of the unemployed populations. For instance, an extra year in a learning institution increases an individual’s income by at least 10% to 20% for the rest of their lives. The effect of illiteracy is an extremely vicious cycle of poverty that often degenerate into political and social conflicts (Houston Chronicle, 2015). Education is considered one of the most important fundamentals in wealth and capital generation. After conducting several studies, it has been concluded that education is one of the escapes from poverty (Permanyer, García, & Esteve, 2013).

Among other interest groups, social workers would benefit from this research and help in solving some of the problems brought about by poverty and low literacy levels. Poverty is a social issue and largely affects the society, as it comes with other problems such as high crime rates and juvenile delinquents. Social workers, in collaboration with the government will be able to provide the way forward. Austere measures need to be taken in the direction of improving literacy levels and in result, alleviating poverty. Programs that provide comprehensive literacy will be instrumental in ensuring individuals acquire important life skills that enable them to live fulfilling lives (De Beer, 2005).


References (2015). Covering poverty and education | Why you should cover poverty. Retrieved 22 July 2015, from

De Beer, C. (2005). The encroaching culture of illiteracy. South African Journal of Higher Education, 18(3). doi:10.4314/sajhe.v18i3.25492 (2015). Illiteracy Causes Poverty ~ Dollpohr. Retrieved 22 July 2015, from

Houston Chronicle. (2015). Literacy is key to unlocking the cycle of poverty. Retrieved 22 July 2015, from

Permanyer, I., García, J., & Esteve, A. (2013). The Impact of Educational Homogamy on Isolated Illiteracy Levels. Demography, 50(6), 2209-2225. doi:10.1007/s13524-013-0228-y

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