CNN is reporting on the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey and gives us the headline that "1 in 20 U.S. adults not literate in English"
Now I hate the NAAL study because like all national educational surveys it is totally useless. By averaging everyone in the country into an aggregate set, they create a data pool of no value whatsoever
. After all, education is a local issue. Who gives a damn about the national literacy rate.
Anyway, I only know of one study of state-by-state evaluation of literacy, and it's from a researcher who had access to the NAAL raw data. The data is old (it's from 1997) and illiteracy means inability to read English, so it overrepresents states with larger hispanic populations since they may be perfectly literate, just not in English. I took his data and made one of my maps. This is adult literacy, the bottom 13 states. The states with the lowest levels of adult literacy are Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas, take a look.
Now if the NAAL did this, the information might be of actual interest to the public, because we could actually see where the problem is, rather than just saying the literacy rate in the entire country is low. It's not low, except in the Southern red states, big surprise. (California and Texas are probably don't belong due to their high immigrant populations).
Source, Stephen Reder, Synthetic Estimates of Literacy Proficiency for Small Census Areas, Prepared for the Division of Adult Education and Literacy Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, revised for internet publication 1997.