If you're a woman who asks this question at work, some number crunching of National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) data might just spell depression.
The Institute For Women's Policy Research examined NAAL's long list of literacy data and it turns out that women with low literacy levels earn less than men with the same poor reading and writing skills. How do you spell "frustrating"? According to IWPR:
Men with low literacy are nearly twice as likely as women at the same literacy level to have weekly earnings above $650. Women with low literacy are twice as likely as men at that skill level to be in the lowest earnings category of $300 a week or less. Even women with higher levels of literacy earn less than men on average—overall, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns according to IWPR research.
Of course, we've known about the .77-on-the-dollar figure for quite awhile and there's a lot that goes into this number. Plus, lower-earning men might be doing more dangerous jobs (e.g., roofing, contracting, road work, etc.) for which they're better compensated simply due to the danger factor. Just a thought.
Anyway, low literacy generally means low earnings no matter your gender if you believe the experts. Literacy is something we should all be striving for in our old age, so it's a good thing we're eliminating adult literacy programs for grown-ups who want to learn. Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning past a sixth-grade reading level? In too many cases, no. On the other hand, too much literacy can also put you at risk for the soup line. Just ask a former journalist; they're not that hard to find these days. Well, at least we'll always have Google and computers with spell check.