Jonathan Kozol, in his book Illiterate America, suggests that the very high figures of literacy may be due to poor methodology. The Census Bureau reported literacy rates of 86% based on personal interviews of a relatively small portion of the population and on written responses to Census Bureau mailings. They also considered individuals literate if they simply stated that they could read and write, and made the assumption that anyone with a fifth grade education had at least an 80% chance of being literate. Kozol notes that, in addition to these weaknesses, the reliance on written forms would have obviously excluded many individuals who did not have a literate family member to fill out the form for them. Finally, he suggests that because illiterate people are likely to be unemployed and may not have telephones or permanent addresses, the census bureau would have been unlikely to find them (and that if they did, these people might be especially reluctant to talk to a stranger who might be a bill collector, tax auditor, or salesperson).
Thursday, May 5, 2011
'47 percent of Detroiters are "functionally illiterate”'
Depressing. The CIA and the United Nations put the United States national literacy rate at 99%, which is probably too high. Apparently, there are some methodology issues with measuring literacy.