Interactive: Visualizing Literacy Rates Around the World
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Inequality

Visualizing Literacy Rates Around the World

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Literacy gap

Visualizing Literacy Rates Around the World

For many people around the world, the ability to read is an essential tool that’s needed for day-to-day life. Yet, despite its importance, approximately 773 million people across the globe do not have access to this basic, often life-saving skill. When it comes to literacy rates, which countries are leading the way, and which ones are lagging behind?

This graphic by Eleonora Nazander visualizes literacy rates in over 150+ countries and provides a breakdown of male versus female literacy rates in each country, using data from UNESCO.

Countries with The Highest Literacy Rates

From 1960 to 2015, global literacy has grown from 42% to 86%—an approximate 4% increase every five years.

While overall literacy rates have increased, some countries have seen more growth than others. Out of the countries included in the dataset, here’s a look at the countries with the highest literacy rates, according to the latest available figures:

CountryFemale Literacy RateMale Literacy Rate
🇺🇦 Ukraine100.0%100.0%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan100.0%100.0%
🇪🇪 Estonia99.9%99.9%
🇱🇻 Latvia99.9%99.9%
🇸🇲 San Marino99.9%99.9%
🇨🇺 Cuba99.8%99.7%
🇱🇹 Lithuania99.8%99.8%
🇷🇺 Russia99.7%99.7%
🇦🇲 Armenia99.7%99.8%
🇧🇾 Belarus99.7%99.8%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan99.7%99.8%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan99.7%99.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan99.7%99.9%
🇧🇧 Barbados99.6%99.6%
🇸🇮 Slovenia99.6%99.7%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan99.6%99.8%
🇹🇴 Tonga99.5%99.4%
🇵🇼 Palau99.5%99.5%
🇬🇪 Georgia99.5%99.7%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan99.5%99.7%

All countries on this list have nationwide literacy rates above 99%, with Ukraine and Uzbekistan both clocking in at 100%.

One country on this list that’s worth touching on is Cuba. The country’s high literacy rate of 99.8% is arguably the result of a campaign that dictator Fidel Castro launched in 1961, which aimed to abolish illiteracy in the country. In less than a year, more than 700,000 Cubans learned basic literary skills.

While Castro’s government imposed rigid censorship and is labeled by critics as an oppressive regime, this literacy campaign also likely influenced surrounding Latin American countries, leading to improved literacy rates in the region.

Countries with the Lowest Literacy Rates

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the countries on the list with the lowest literacy rates. As the data shows, a staggering amount of the world’s illiterate population is in Sub-Saharan Africa:

CountryFemale Literacy RateMale Literacy Rate
🇹🇩 Chad14.0%38.9%
🇳🇪 Niger22.6%39.1%
🇸🇸 South Sudan28.9%40.3%
🇬🇳 Guinea22.0%43.6%
🇲🇱 Mali25.7%46.2%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso32.7%50.1%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic25.8%50.7%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone34.9%51.6%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire40.5%53.7%
🇧🇯 Benin31.1%54.0%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan29.8%55.5%
🇮🇶 Iraq44.0%56.2%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia44.4%59.2%
🇬🇲 Gambia41.6%61.8%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau30.8%62.2%
🇱🇷 Liberia34.1%62.7%
🇲🇷 Mauritania43.4%63.7%
🇰🇲 Comoros53.0%64.6%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea57.9%65.3%
🇭🇹 Haiti58.3%65.3%

The country with the lowest literacy rate covered in this data is Chad, coming in at just 14.0% for female literacy and 38.9% for male literacy. This is due to a number of factors, one being poor access to education. In 2019, more than 700,000 children weren’t in school, and almost 500,000 of them were female.

However, it is worth noting that Chad’s youth population is much more literate than its senior population—over 30% of youth (aged 15-24) are literate, compared to just 7% of seniors (aged 65+) which shows how education has improved over the years—even if there’s still a long way to go.

Gender Disparities in Global Literacy

A broad target in the official list of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to close the gender gap in education. And as the data shows, some regions are already meeting this target, with most countries in Central Asia, Europe, Northern America, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, and Latin America already at virtual gender parity for literacy.

That being said, countries in Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Asia are still showing significant disparities between genders. Here’s a look at the countries with the largest gender gaps in literacy:

CountryMale literacyFemale literacyGender Gap (p.p.)
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau62.2%30.8%31.4%
🇱🇷 Liberia62.7%34.1%28.6%
🇦🇴 Angola80.0%53.4%26.6%
🇹🇬 Togo77.3%51.2%26.1%
🇸🇳 Senegal66.3%40.4%25.9%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan55.5%29.8%25.7%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic50.7%25.8%24.9%
🇹🇩 Chad38.9%14.0%24.9%
🇵🇰 Pakistan71.1%46.5%24.6%
🇧🇯 Benin54.0%31.1%22.9%

Guinea-Bissau in West Africa has the greatest gender literacy gap, with a literacy rate for males that is 31.4 percentage points higher than females. One possible reason for the gap is the high instances of child marriage in the country—approximately 37% of women are married before they’re 18.

While various organizations have created programs to help girls in Guinea-Bissau stay in school, a gap of this size will likely take considerable time and effort to close.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Inequality

Household Income Distribution in the U.S. Visualized as 100 Homes

This visual breaks down U.S. household income categories as 100 homes, based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Household Income Distribution in the U.S. Visualized as 100 Homes

Income inequality and wealth disparity have been frequent topics of conversation, even before the pandemic upended the economy.

Now, rising inflation and interest rates, and a possible recession on the horizon are bringing these societal divides into sharp focus.

In the above visualization, U.S. households are parsed out into a neighborhood of 100 homes and then grouped by income brackets, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Neighborhood Breakdown

American households vary widely on their respective incomes. The largest cluster of homes, representing nearly 20% of all American households, are in the $25-$49.9k income bracket.

Here’s a look at the share of households in each income bracket and the number of homes they represent.

Household IncomeShare of TotalNumber of Homes
Under $25K18.1%18
$25K-$49.9K19.7%20
$50K-$74.9K16.5%17
$75K-99.9K12.2%12
$100K-$149.9K15.3%15
$150k-$199.9K8.0%8
Over $200K10.3%10

In our hypothetical neighborhood, 18 of the households are in the lowest income bracket. People in this category have a wide variety of jobs, but personal care aides, cashiers, food and beverage positions are some of the most common. As a point of reference, the poverty line for a family of four currently sits at $26,496.

On the flip side, in this small community of 100 houses, 33 earn six figures and typically have at least one family member in a corporate or medical role.

The American Middle Class

The middle class in America has shrunk significantly in the past 50 years, going from 61% of adults being middle income in 1971 to 50% in 2021.

Here’s a look at the economic class breakdowns by annual household income, based on households with three people (Note: the average U.S. household has 2.6 people):

  • Upper class: >$156,000
  • Middle class:  $52,000-$156,000
  • Lower class: <$52,000

Although these definitions and conditions don’t align exactly with the buckets we use in the main houses visualization, they come pretty close.

In the neighborhood of 100 homes, 38 homes could be considered low income, while 18 are high income. Meanwhile, sitting in the $50-149.9k middle range of household income are 44 homes.

The Larger Trends

The pandemic had an extremely adverse impact on earnings and income worldwide, and the U.S. was no exception.

Median household income decreased 2.9% to $67.5k between 2019 and 2020, the first decrease since 2014. Additionally, the number of people who worked full-time jobs, year-round decreased by around 13.7 million.

That said, when looking at the longer-term trend, the median income for those considered middle class has jumped by 50% over the last five decades. Here’s a look at the median incomes in each economic class in 1970 vs. 2020:

 1970 Median Household Income (in 2020 $)2020 Median Household Income% Change
Low Income$20,604$29,96345%
Middle Income$59,934$90,13150%
Upper Income$130,008$219,57269%

With a recession⁠ highly likely to occur in the U.S., and rising inflation causing increases in the cost of basic, everyday goods, budgets may get tighter for many households in America, and incomes are likely to be impacted as well.

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Misc

Visualizing Women’s Economic Rights Around the World

In recent years, many economies have made women’s rights a priority, yet only 10 countries in the world offer full legal protections to women.

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Women's Rights in Each Country

Visualizing Women’s Economic Rights in Each Country

In recent years, many economies have made women’s rights a priority by eliminating job restrictions, working to reduce the gender wage gap, or changing legislation related to marriage and parenthood.

Still, many laws continue to inhibit women’s ability to enter the workforce or start a business—and even to travel outside their homes in the same way as men. In fact, on average globally, women have just three-quarters of the economic rights of men.

This map uses data from the Women, Business and Law 2021 report by the World Bank, to visualize women’s economic rights around the world.

Legal Protections

According to the World Bank, only 10 countries offer full legal protections to women, and all of them are in the Northern Hemisphere.

In ranking countries, the institution considers indicators like equal remuneration, legal rights, and mobility. A score of 100 means that women are on equal legal standing with men across all areas measured.

RankCountry/TerritoryScore
1Belgium100.0
1Canada100.0
1Denmark100.0
1France100.0
1Iceland100.0
1Ireland100.0
1Latvia100.0
1Luxembourg100.0
1Portugal100.0
1Sweden100.0
2Estonia97.5
2Finland97.5
2Germany97.5
2Greece97.5
2Italy97.5
2Netherlands97.5
2New Zealand97.5
2Spain97.5
2United Kingdom97.5
3Australia96.9
3Austria96.9
3Hungary96.9
3Norway96.9
3Slovenia96.9
4Peru95.0
5Paraguay94.4
6Croatia93.8
6Czech Republic93.8
6Lithuania93.8
6Poland93.8
6Serbia93.8
7Kosovo91.9
7Mauritius91.9
8Albania91.3
8Cyprus91.3
8Taiwan, China91.3
8United States91.3
9Bulgaria90.6
9Romania90.6
10Ecuador89.4
10Hong Kong, China89.4
11Bolivia88.8
11El Salvador88.8
11Malta88.8
11Mexico88.8
11Uruguay88.8
12Lao PDR88.1
12Montenegro88.1
12South Africa88.1
13Guyana86.9
13Zimbabwe86.9
14Cabo Verde86.3
14Dominican Republic86.3
14Namibia86.3
14Nicaragua86.3
14São Tomé and Príncipe86.3
15Georgia85.6
15Switzerland85.6
16Bosnia and Herzegovina85.0
16Brazil85.0
16Korea, Rep.85.0
16North Macedonia85.0
16Slovak Republic85.0
16Venezuela85.0
17Moldova84.4
17Togo84.4
18Liberia83.8
18Puerto Rico (US)83.8
18St. Lucia83.8
19Costa Rica83.1
19Côte d'Ivoire83.1
19Timor-Leste83.1
20Armenia82.5
20Fiji82.5
20Mongolia82.5
20Mozambique82.5
20Singapore82.5
20Turkey82.5
20United Arab Emirates82.5
21Colombia81.9
21Japan81.9
21Vietnam81.9
22Bahamas81.3
22Tanzania81.3
22Zambia81.3
23Grenada80.6
23Israel80.6
23Kenya80.6
23Nepal80.6
23Rwanda80.6
24Chile80.0
24Samoa80.0
24San Marino80.0
24Saudi Arabia80.0
25Belize79.4
25Burkina Faso79.4
25Panama79.4
25Ukraine79.4
26Azerbaijan78.8
26Congo, Dem. Rep.78.8
26Kiribati78.8
26Philippines78.8
26Tajikistan78.8
27Lesotho78.1
27Thailand78.1
28Benin77.5
28Malawi77.5
29Barbados76.9
29Central African Republic76.9
29Ethiopia76.9
29Kyrgyz Republic76.9
30Argentina76.3
30Guinea76.3
30Seychelles76.3
31Belarus75.6
31China75.6
31Morocco75.6
32Cambodia75.0
32Ghana75.0
32Honduras75.0
32Trinidad and Tobago75.0
33Gambia74.4
33India74.4
33Madagascar74.4
34Maldives73.8
34Suriname73.8
35Angola73.1
35Burundi73.1
35Russia73.1
35Uganda73.1
36Bhutan71.9
37St. Kitts and Nevis71.3
38Guatemala70.6
38Uzbekistan70.6
39South Sudan70.0
40Eritrea69.4
40Kazakhstan69.4
40Sierra Leone69.4
41Dijibouti68.1
41Jamaica68.1
41Marshall Islands68.1
41St. Vicent and the Grenadines68.1
42Tunisia67.5
43Senegal66.9
44Antigua and Barbuda66.3
44Chad66.3
45Sri Lanka65.6
46Comoros65.0
47Indonesia64.4
48Botswana63.8
48Haiti63.8
48Micronesia63.8
49Nigeria63.1
50Dominica62.5
51Mali60.6
52Cameroon60.0
52Papua New Guinea60.0
53Niger59.4
54Myanmar58.8
54Palau58.8
54Tonga58.8
55Vanuatu58.1
56Algeria57.5
56Gabon57.5
57Solomon Islands56.9
58Bahrain55.6
58Pakistan55.6
59Brunei Darussalam53.1
60Lebanon52.5
61Equatorial Guinea51.9
62Libya50.0
62Malaysia50.0
63Bangladesh49.4
63Congo, Rep.49.4
64Mauritania48.1
65Jordan46.9
65Somalia46.9
66Eswatini46.3
67Egypt45.0
67Iraq45.0
68Guinea-Bissau42.5
69Afghanistan38.1
70Syria36.9
71Oman35.6
72Iran31.3
73Qatar29.4
73Sudan29.4
74Kuwait28.8
75Yemen26.9
76West Bank and Gaza26.3

According to the report, there are 20 economies in the world where women still have half or fewer of the legal economic rights of men.

Under Taliban rule, for example, women in Afghanistan have limited access to education and work. In the Gaza Strip, women must have the permission of a male guardian to travel.

Yet, some differences are also seen in developed countries.

In the U.S, women still earn an average of about 82 cents for each dollar earned by men, and the gap across many countries in Europe is similar. Meanwhile, women are represented in just 23% of seats in national parliaments globally, and make up just 13% of agricultural landholders.

The Shadow Pandemic

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities that disadvantage girls and women, including barriers to attend school and maintain jobs, according to the United Nations.

In fact, new research shows that the sectors that have been most affected by the pandemic so far are those with high levels of women workers, including the restaurant and hospitality business, as well as the travel sector.

While leaders debate recovery in a post-pandemic world, rights equality remains a central topic for social and economic development.

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