049ms The Political Benefits of Adult Literacy: Presumed and Real Effects

Nelly P. Stromquist


This article reviews the research literature on political impacts linked to adult literacy. Despite the enormous importance of literacy, few studies exist on their interconnection. The majority of quantitative studies indicate higher levels of political participation by former adult literacy program participants compared to their non-participant counterparts. The qualitative studies have focused on the uses and practice of literacy rather than its political impact. A common and robust finding is that of increased self-esteem among literacy participants, particularly women. Since self-esteem is linked to self-efficacy, which predicts social action, and literacy effects have been found to persist several years after program participation, literacy can be surmised to be associated with political engagement. Program designers for adult literacy are advised to consider self-esteem components explicitly in the production of those programs.

Keywords: political participation, adult literacy, self-esteem, citizenship, adult literacy impacts

Running header: Political Benefits of Literacy