Interrelating Low Literacy with Health, Crime and Social Assistance

Further to Karen Blair’s previous post, here’s an example of interrelating low literacy with health, crime, social assistance, etc. for Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), from Adult Learning Association of Cape Breton County’s United Way “Poverty to Possibility” application.

• 15% of working age Cape Breton County residents, or 8200 individuals, do not have a high school diploma. The percentage of residents without a high school diploma is above the provincial average in Sydney, Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney and Sydney Mines, ranging from 24% in Sydney to 37% in Sydney Mines. (see attached chart, Statistics Canada, 2011 and 2006 data)

• We anticipate 8 Adult Learning Association learners will enter High School programs this year as a result of our program. The cost of a High School dropout is $16,173 annually in: Social Assistance costs; earning loss; tax revenue loss; EI premium loss; EI cost and in health costs; loss of civic engagement such as volunteerism and charitable giving; higher crime costs and lower educational achievement of children. 8 additional High School graduates in CBRM will result in savings of $129,384 annually or $4,528,440 over a lifetime, assuming 35 years of savings.

• Total Economic Impact for CBRM: $4,528,440.

• Improving literacy skills has a tremendous Social Return on Investment. Better educated individuals earn higher wages over their lifetime, have less risk of unemployment, better employment opportunities, more productivity, less absenteeism, less accidents and more capability for retraining. They also have better health, longer life spans, fuller participation in society and are far less likely to live in poverty. Adults with low literacy are 5 times more likely to receive Social Assistance (Canadian Literacy and Learning Network).

• Poverty and low literacy form a cycle that is very difficult to break. Raising literacy levels is vital to breaking this cycle. A child whose parents did not graduate from high school is twice as likely to live in poverty as a child whose parents did graduate (National Centre for Children’s Poverty). Children from low-income households are at risk of low literacy. By investing in adult literacy programs, children benefit as well. Children will still have trouble in school if their parents lack the literacy skills to support their schooling.

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