Georgia Has the Lowest Literacy Rate of Any State, Data Suggests

Georgia boasts numerous attractions, including the world’s largest aquarium, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., and the headquarters of Coca-Cola. However, it faces a significant challenge: data from various sources indicate that it holds the lowest literacy rate among all U.S. states.

This predicament adversely affects education, employment, health, and civic engagement for many adults in Georgia. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons behind Georgia’s low literacy rate, its consequences, and potential solutions for improvement.

Understanding Literacy and Measurement Methods

Literacy is the capacity to use written language effectively for communication, comprehension, and learning. It is a dynamic skill that exists on a continuum, influenced by context, purpose, and difficulty level. Measurement approaches include standardized tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and surveys like the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

Georgia’s Literacy Statistics

NAEP reports from 2019 show that Georgia ranked 30th and 34th in fourth and eighth-grade reading, respectively, below the national average. PIAAC data from 2014 placed Georgia at 42nd in adult literacy. A 2017 Deloitte report revealed that one in six Georgia adults struggles with low literacy, costing the state approximately $1.26 billion annually, with a significant portion directed towards prison-related expenses.

Causes and Effects of Low Literacy

Factors contributing to low literacy include poverty, limited education, language barriers, learning disabilities, and health issues. The consequences encompass reduced income and job opportunities, compromised health and well-being, decreased civic engagement, and an adverse impact on children’s education.

Addressing the Literacy Challenge

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, several promising strategies can aid in enhancing literacy:

  1. Investing in Early Childhood Education: Quality preschool programs, home visiting services, and early intervention for at-risk children create foundational skills for school readiness.
  2. Supporting K-12 Education: Ensuring equitable funding, resources, and standards for public schools, along with targeted interventions like tutoring and mentoring, aids struggling students.
  3. Expanding Adult Education: Affordable adult education programs, including basic literacy and workforce development, empower adults to improve skills and credentials.
  4. Promoting Family and Community Literacy: Programs that encourage family and community literacy, such as parent-child education initiatives and accessible community libraries, foster a culture of learning.


Georgia faces the challenge of a low literacy rate, impacting the lives of adults and children. Nevertheless, by investing in education, expanding opportunities, and fostering community engagement, there is potential to elevate literacy levels in Georgia, creating a state where everyone can read, write, and succeed.

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