The Economics of Reading

#GivingTuesday kicks off Traveling Stories’ 2018 Year-End Literacy Fundraising Campaign. Why is this important and why does it matter?

According to the NAEP, 82% of low-income kids cannot read at grade level by the time they reach 4th grade. Reading is crucial at this point as from the 4th grade on kids are asked to read to learn. Every subject matter requires reading: math, history, geography, biology, social studies, etc. Among those who cannot read at this point in their lives, 2/3 will either land in jail or on welfare.

We’re not Wall Street finance people, but we can do the simple math equation that $10 a month to provide a reading program for one child is much cheaper  and economically sound than to pay for incarceration and welfare.

Let’s throw a little more math your way, since we have faith in the fact that you can read:

According to the ESRI report on the San Diego population, by 2022 there will be 243,986 children between the ages of 0 and 14. Then if we look at the household’s income, 45% live below the median of $75,000 for the household giving us an estimated 117,113 children living in lower income households.

Say Traveling Stories offers reading support to every single one of these children for an entire year:

117,113 X $10 = $1,171,130 X 12 months = $14,053,560

It would cost $14M to make sure every low-income child can read. I know. It looks like a lot. But wait, there’s more. There’s always more…

Now let’s compare this to the cost of welfare on society… What if these kids cannot read and two thirds of them (as stats would dictate) end up in jail or on welfare? Let’s not forget that no other state comes close to what California spends on welfare! At $103 Billion, California spends more on welfare than New York and Texas combined! That’s the whole state, what would be the price tag if each of these 117,113 end up on welfare? It costs $25 per day for welfare benefits:

117,113 X $25 = $2,927,825 X 365 days = $1,068,656,125

What about the cost of incarceration? Again, 2/3 will either land in jail or on welfare. What’s the price tag on California’s incarceration system? It costs $71,000 to incarcerate one person per year in California. Although our “housed” offenders has been dropping there were 115,000 offenders in 2015. California spends $12Billion per year on incarceration.

117,113 X $71,000 = $8.3 Billion

This is mind numbing. Kinda makes you want to get lost in a book doesn’t it? Books don’t just do wonders on the economy, they provide escape from reality!