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Health Indicator Report of Literacy - Adults Lacking Basic Prose Literacy Skills

Adults need strong literacy skills to get good jobs, stay healthy, be active in their communities, avoid human rights abuse, avoid crime, and to raise children who have strong literacy skills. The employees most in demand in the U.S. have at least a two-year college degree. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (2003), 75 percent of America's state prison inmates did not complete high school. Literacy begins when parents read to their children and encourage their children to read. Parents who are poor readers don't read as often to their children. When young children are not read to, they enter school less prepared for learning to read than other children. (1)

Percentage of Adults Lacking Basic Prose Literacy Skills by County, New Mexico 2003


The literacy of adults who lack BPLS ranges from being unable to read and understand any written information in English to being able to locate easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose text, but nothing more advanced.

Data Source

1992 and 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey. National Assessment of Adult Literacy, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics.

Data Interpretation Issues

From the National Center for Adult Literacy (NAAL) website: "The 2003 NAAL included interviews of more than 18,500 adults (age 16 and older) who resided in private households across the country." "The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has produced estimates of the percentage of adults lacking Basic Prose Literacy Skills (BPLS) for all states and counties in the United States in 2003 and 1992. These estimates were developed using statistical models that related estimated percentages of adults lacking BPLS in counties sampled for the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) and the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) to county characteristics, such as levels of educational attainment and race/ethnicity distributions."


The percentage of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills.


The estimated number of adults (age 16 and older) lacking basic prose literacy skills.


The estimated number of adults (age 16 and older) in the population.

How Are We Doing?

16% of New Mexico adults (age 16+) lacked basic prose literacy skills. Applied to the 2010 population, this represents an estimated 249,000 New Mexicans. The estimated percentage of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills in New Mexico decreased one percentage point, from 17% in 1992 to 16% in 2003. The difference is not statistically significant.

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

Data from the most recent survey (2003), report the percentage of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills at 14.5% in the U.S., compared with 16% in New Mexico.
Page Content Updated On 11/14/2014, Published on 09/09/2015
The information provided above is from the New Mexico Department of Health's NM-IBIS web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: "Retrieved Wed, 22 September 2021 from New Mexico Department of Health, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site:".

Content updated: Fri, 11 Sep 2015 12:04:55 MDT