The Most Literate Cities in the U.S. Are. ...

January 25, 2012 Updated Jan 25, 2012 at 2:35 PM EDT

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The Most Literate Cities in the U.S. Are. ...

January 25, 2012 Updated Jan 25, 2012 at 2:35 PM EDT

New Britain, Conn. (Central Connecticut State University news release) -- A national survey of America’s Most Literate Cities released Wednesday finds Washington, D.C. as the nation’s most literate.

This makes Washington D.C.’s second appearance at the top. The survey also ranks E-book use for first time, and explores the connection between the wealth of cities and their literacy.

The study, now in its ninth year, is conducted annually by Dr. Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University. It measures a key component in America’s social health by ranking the culture and resources for reading in America’s 75 largest cities.

The top 10 cities are:

1. Washington, D.C.
2. Seattle, Wash.
3. Minneapolis, Minn
4. Atlanta, Ga
5. Boston, Mass.
6. Pittsburgh, Pa.
7. Cincinnati, Ohio
8. St. Louis, Mo.
9. San Francisco, Calif.
10. Denver, Colo.

The complete rankings are available online at: www.ccsu.edu/amlc2011.

Criteria for Literacy

The study ranks cities based on research data for six key indicators of their citizens’ use of literacy: booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation, and periodical publishing resources. The information is compared against population rates in each city to develop a per capita profile of the city’s literacy.

E-Books Added to Survey

E-Books have, for the first time, been included in the survey. As one of several factors in the Internet category, the inclusion of E-Books had a modest impact on the Internet rankings and only a slight impact on the Overall rankings. This was the first year in the annual survey for which reliable research data (from Scarborough Research) was available.

Poverty, Wealth, and Literacy

Also new this year, Miller examines the relationship between a city’s wealth and its literacy. Using U.S. Census data for income in the relevant cities, Miller discovered that “Wealthier cites are no more likely to rank highly in literacy than poorer cities. For example, Cleveland ranks second lowest for median family income (among the AMLC cities) and yet, thanks to its great library system (ranked #1 in the AMLC) and strong newspaper (#6) and magazine (#5) circulations, it is ranked 13th most literate in the survey. On the other hand, Anchorage is ranked 5th in median family income and only 61st in literacy.”

Other notable cities that exemplify Miller’s finding are St. Louis, which ranks 70th in median family income but #8 in literacy; Henderson, NV (#7 in wealth and #53 in literacy), San Diego (#8 in wealth and #33.5 in literacy).

Miller also found that while poverty has a strong impact on educational attainment, its impact on literacy is much weaker. These findings suggest that a city’s quality of literacy has to do with many decisions that go beyond just how wealthy and highly educated is the population. Even poorer cities can invest in their libraries. Low income people can use the Internet. Low income cities can produce newspapers and magazines that are widely read throughout the region.

“This demonstrates that if cities are truly committed to literacy, they can find a way past poverty and other socio-cultural challenges to create and sustain rich resources for reading,” according to Miller.