U.S. Workers Paid Billions to Read

Published October 1, 1998

Good reading skills are important not only to school-age children, but also to adults in the daily performance of their jobs. Reading proficiency has huge economic and social significance in the US, notes Herbert J. Walberg in Spending More While Learning Less.

Eighty-seven percent of employees surveyed in 1970 reported spending an average of 29 percent of their workday–more than two hours of every eight–reading. Employers paid some $253 billion for the time their employees spent reading such work-related materials as training manuals, reports, and memoranda. Today, the amount paid for on-the-job reading is likely to be substantially higher, as reading is an even more important part of the day for workers more highly paid than they were in 1970.

“Arguably, US citizens are paid more for reading than for any other single activity,” says Walberg. The poor reading skills that make school difficult for students in the US today will have even more dramatic consequences as those students enter the workforce upon graduation.