The Case for Investment in Adult Basic Education


There is a significant connection between participation in adult basic skills programs and increased employment and income levels, high school equivalency and postsecondary education attainment, and civic participation. This return on investment, however, remains mostly unknown to policy makers, funders, and the general public.

ProLiteracy’s new white paper, The Case for Investment in Adult Basic Education, is based on a 10-year research study conducted by Dr. Stephen Reder, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University. Dr. Reder found substantial evidence proving that involvement in adult basic skills programs has a positive return on investment related to improving an adult’s life. It has been concluded that low adult literacy has a huge adverse effect on the employability and earnings of American adults, and on our nation’s economic and social well-being. This research provides a strong case for the need to increase investment in adult education through federal and state policies, private foundations, and individual donors.

From 1998-2007, Dr. Reder conducted the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) to analyze the correlation between adults with low literacy skills who participated in adult basic skills (ABS) programs and those who did not. Ultimately he wanted to deliver data that showed the positive long-term outcomes for adults who have access to sufficiently funded adult literacy programs.

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