The Effects of a Low Literacy Rate

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The Effects of a Low Literacy Rate
Trina Heyrman
June 21, 2012
Pamela Brown

The Effects of a Low Literacy Rate

“The devil of illiteracy had been given a staging post in the temple of the written word”
–Dean Koontz.
While the benefits of a high literacy rate tend to speak for themselves, many people prefer to overlook the costs of a low literacy rate. A low literacy rate can affect just about everything a person does in their life after graduating high school. It will influence profession or career they choose, the amount of income they make, and subsequently the areas and neighborhoods where they can afford to live. It can even affect their family life and the health of interpersonal relationships. Many people are leaving their schooling with a dangerously low literacy rate, all too unknowing of the consequences that poor schooling, a lack of interest in academics, or even just the lack of proper learning tools can have on their futures.

According to Literacy and Growth (Serge Coulombe, Jean-Francois Trembley), the higher a literacy rate country has, the more likely it will experience growth in terms of productivity and technology. The study also indicates that women’s literacy is more likely to have a more powerful effect on the growth of a country than the literacy rate of men. The effects that just one extra year of schooling can have are fairly large, with as much as a 7% increase in labor productivity over men. When people are more productive, they are more likely to not only understand the importance of being able to access technology, but they will also be able to afford to utilize it. This means that when the literacy rate of a country as a whole is higher, that country is much more likely to have better access to technology for its citizens. Having a well educated and literate populace also indicated that there will be a higher likelihood of developing new technology as people will have the knowledge and the means to improve or invent new devices. It also means that the people of the country are more likely to show an increase in productivity over those in other less educated areas. A likely explanation is that there is an understanding that working not only harder, but smarter as well, can increase their worth as an employee and improve their pay rate, and therefore improve their lifestyle. In today’s world of closely connected international business and trade, this increase in productivity can have a global affect, not just a local one.

When it comes to global influence, a country that has a higher literacy rate, such as the United States, England, and Japan, is more likely to have a greater amount of power on a worldwide scale. The study done in Society’s Level of Literacy: A Cross Cultural Study (Amir Shoham), shows there is definitely a connection between a higher level of literacy and a more egalitarian society where everyone in the society has the chance and means to rise or fall within the social strata, unlike a country such as India where the classes are organized into a rigid caste system based on birth and occupation. This means that when there is a higher level of literacy in a country as a whole, it is more likely that the citizens will be treated with more equality and respect than in countries where the literacy level is low. A higher level of literacy is also more likely to lead to having more personal power and influence within a community or government, neatly proving the old adage that “Knowledge is Power”.

While a high or low literacy rate can impact a country’s power and influence on a global scale, the effects a low literacy rate can have on an individual’s life are much more pronounced. In The Effects of Adult Literacy on Earnings and Employment (Mauna Soares de Baldini Rocha, Vladimir Ponczek), it indicates that...
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