United States Literacy Rates - National Assessment of Adult Literacy
United States Literacy Rates - National Assessment of Adult Literacy

The key

Number of Adults in Each Prose Literacy Level

Prose Literacy

* Below Basic:
o no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills
* Basic:
o can perform simple and everyday literacy activities
* Intermediate:
o can perform moderately challenging literacy activities
* Proficient:
o can perform complex and challenging literacy activities

What works

This is a simple way to do a bar graph when all of your bars will add up to 100%. Just think: they could have laid this information out in a standard bar graph with a separate bar for each level of literacy. This way, it’s easier to see that all these parts add up to a whole population.

It is alarming that there are more people ‘below basic’ than ‘proficient’ especially in the increasingly text-based world we live in. Emails and chat clients have replaced many phone calls which is especially critical for workers. (I wonder if on a per-communication basis it costs more to use the phone. Anyone seen data?)

What needs work

I would have tried to get the categories labeled within the graphic itself. Referring to a bulleted list is a bit cumbersome. On the other hand, I appreciate the desire to thoroughly describe what each categorical label actually means, and it would have been hard to elegantly place all those words into the graphic.


National Assessment of Adult Literacy. (2003) Demographics overall.