Illiteracy rampant in Los Angeles: report

Study finds more than half of residents in Los Angeles area are functionally illiterate, mayor concerned about economic ramifications

High illiteracy due to immigration and an excessive school dropout rate are threatening the well-being of Los Angeles’s economy, according to the city’s mayor.

Mayor James Hahn, reacting to a report that found more than 50 per cent of the working-age population in the region can’t read a simple form, called it an “emergency situation” and said the poor literacy rates could drive out high-tech businesses and other industries that pay well, according to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News.

A study by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles found that 53 per cent of workers ages 16 and older were functionally illiterate. And just one out of 10 people deemed functionally illiterate is enrolled in literacy classes and half of them drop out within three weeks, it found.

Some pockets of the San Fernando Valley had illiteracy rates as high as 85 per cent.

The study looked at levels of literacy using data from the 2000 Census, the U.S. Department of Education and a survey of literacy programs.

The United Way said 3.8 million Los Angeles County residents could not write a note explaining a billing error, use a bus schedule or locate an intersection on a street map.

The report didn’t put a dollar figure on how much the high illiteracy rate was costing the L.A. area, but the National Right to Read Foundation has said that across the U.S. functional illiteracy is costing the economy $224 billion US per year.

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