Data

Literacy rate

What you should know about this indicator

Recent estimates:

Percentage of the population between age 25 and age 64 who can, with understanding, read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life. Generally, ‘literacy’ also encompasses ‘numeracy’, the ability to make simple arithmetic calculations. This indicator is calculated by dividing the number of literates aged 25-64 years by the corresponding age group population and multiplying the result by 100.

World Bank variable id: UIS.LR.AG25T64

Original source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Historical literacy data:

The historical estimates in this long-run cross-country dataset were derived from a blend of diverse sources, each contributing to different time periods. For data before 1800, the dataset relies on the work of Buringh and Van Zanden (2009), which offers insights into literacy through the lens of manuscript and book production in Europe from the sixth to the eighteenth centuries. For the years 1820 and 1870 (excluding the United States), it incorporates data from Broadberry and O'Rourke's "The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe." The United States data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, global estimates for the period 1820-2000 are drawn from van Zanden and colleagues’ "How Was Life?: Global Well-being since 1820," an OECD publication. For historical estimates specific to Latin America, the dataset uses the Oxford Latin American Economic History Database (OxLAD). Each source follows a consistent conceptual definition of literacy, although discrepancies among sources are acknowledged, necessitating cautious interpretation of year-to-year changes. The dataset also includes instances where specific sources were preferred, such as opting for OxLAD data over the World Bank for Paraguay in 1982 due to significant differences in literacy rate estimates.

Source
World Bank (2023); Various sources (2018) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
July 10, 2023
Date range
1475–2022
Unit
%

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The World Bank EdStats database offers a comprehensive array of over 8,000 internationally comparable indicators related to education access, progression, completion, literacy, teachers, demographics, and expenditures. It covers the education cycle from pre-primary to vocational and tertiary education, including data on learning outcomes from assessments like PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS, equity data from household surveys, and educational projections up to 2050.

Retrieved on
July 26, 2023
Citation
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
World Bank Education Statistics (EdStats), World Bank, 2023. Licence: CC BY 4.0.

This dataset combines long-run cross-country literacy rates from several sources including the World Bank's WDI, CIA Factbook, and other historical data series. Key sources include Buringh & Van Zanden (2009) for data before 1800, Broadberry and O'Rourke (2010) for 1820 and 1870, and van Zanden et al. (2014) for global estimates from 1820-2000. It also includes recent estimates for high-income countries and available 2016 data from the CIA World Factbook. Note that the sources may have discrepancies and different underlying methodologies, and thus year-to-year changes should be interpreted cautiously.

Retrieved on
April 18, 2018
Citation
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
Literacy rates (World Bank, CIA World Factbook, and other sources)

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Citations

How to cite this page

To cite this page overall, including any descriptions, FAQs or explanations of the data authored by Our World in Data, please use the following citation:

“Data Page: Literacy rate”. Our World in Data (2024). Data adapted from World Bank, Various sources. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cross-country-literacy-rates [online resource]
How to cite this data

In-line citationIf you have limited space (e.g. in data visualizations), you can use this abbreviated in-line citation:

World Bank (2023); Various sources (2018) – processed by Our World in Data

Full citation

World Bank (2023); Various sources (2018) – processed by Our World in Data. “Literacy rate” [dataset]. World Bank, “World Bank Education Statistics (EdStats) 2023”; Various sources, “Cross-country literacy rates” [original data]. Retrieved June 23, 2024 from https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cross-country-literacy-rates