This research focuses on how functionally illiterate consumers make decisions and cope in the information age. Estimates suggest a high rate of functional illiteracy, about a fifth of the US population or higher. Estimates of functional illiteracy in most other countries, particularly developing countries, are much higher. Surprisingly, very little research has been done examining functionally illiterate consumers in the global marketplace.
The first phase of the study will provide an in-depth view of functionally illiterate consumers. The functionally literate poor will be studied, along with non-native speakers with very limited experience with English and the US marketplace, as well as functionally illiterate consumers in India. Issues of interest include (i) use of health-related information and consumption of unhealthy products; (ii) use of credit and money management; (iii) responses to advertising, selling and promotional appeals; (iv) use of product-related instructions; and (v) the use of computer-related media including the internet.
Results from the first phase of the research program will serve as the basis for the second phase in which a large-scale survey will be developed and administered. The second phase will be designed to identify and assess possible solutions to help functionally illiterate consumers negotiate the marketing environment. The proposed research has important practical implications for adult education, business and government.