How does low literacy affect debt?

Ecorys was commissioned by Stichting Lezen & Schrijven to speak to 11 low-literate people who are or have been in a debt situation. Portraits provided insight into how the debts arose and what influence low-literacy had on their debt situation.

Our research shows that there are several causes of debt that have a clear relationship with low literacy:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing and/or arithmetic skills causes participants to have insufficient insight into administration. The portraits show that several individuals did not have an overview of their income and expenses, ultimately leading them to financial difficulties.
  • Low-literate people are more dependent on others than residents who do not struggle with language and/or numeracy skills. This dependence makes low-literate people vulnerable.
  • Difficulty with language and/or maths often causes arrears to develop into problematic debts. For instance, shame plays a major role among low-literate people, so they do not always turn to help right away.

Areas for improvement in communication

  • Letters from municipalities or the Tax Office could be drafted more simply
  • More personal (telephone) contact
  • Increase awareness of signals of low literacy in municipal departments

Want to know more? Read the research report (in Dutch) for more information.

Do you have a question or want more information about our approach? If so, please contact Annejet Kerckhaert.

30 April 2021

1 minute read

Key Experts

Annejet Kerckhaert

Principal Consultant