America’s Most (and Least) Literate Cities

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America’s Most Literate Cities

10. Portland, Ore.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 38.50 (23rd highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 42.9% (10th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 1.85 (27th most)
> Median income: $47,033 (31st highest)

Portland is one of the most educated cities in the United States. Among adults at least 25 years old, 90.2% had a high school diploma — the eighth-highest percentage of all large cities considered. Also, 42.9% had a college degree, versus 28.5% nationwide. Portland had one of the highest per capita totals of bookstores and booksellers. The city’s library system was also active, with the highest circulation of books per capita of any large city. However, newspaper circulation remained light for a top-ranked city.

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9. St. Louis, Mo.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 56.21 (10th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 28.2% (34th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 2.92 (13th most)
> Median income: $32,570 (7th lowest)

St. Louis ranked third in terms of library resources, which takes into account the number of libraries and the number of books carried by them. The city also ranked second for publishing, with a high circulation of magazines and journals. The one area where St. Louis scored relatively poorly was in educational attainment, ranking 45th out of the 76 cities. Nearly 84% of adults aged 25 and over had a high-school diploma as of 2011, while just over 28% had at least a bachelor’s degree — both below the national rate.

8. Atlanta, Ga.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 50.37 (14th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 47.2% (5th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 3.10 (12th most)
> Median income: $43,903 (32nd highest)

Atlanta ranked in the top 10 in four categories of literacy: bookstores, education, newspapers and publications. While Atlanta proper is not particularly wealthy — the city’s median household income in 2011 was just $43,903, compared to $50,502 for the U.S. as a whole — the surrounding areas are. And many commuters in the suburbs go to the city to take advantage of its libraries and bookstores. In addition, many of the city’s residents are highly educated. More than 47% of Atlanta’s population had at least a bachelor’s degree, the fifth-highest percentage of all major cities.

7. Boston, Mass.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 52.35 (13th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 42.7% (11th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 2.48 (17th most)
> Median income: $49,081 (25th highest)

Boston had a higher level of Internet readership than other cities — with a higher proportion of residents reading online or reading e-books. Not many cities in the U.S. had as many periodical publishers such as magazines and scholarly journals. The city of Boston is well known for its higher education, with more than 50 colleges and universities in the area. However, access to a quality education is not evenly distributed. In 2011, 42.7% of Boston residents over age 25 had a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest rates among large cities in the United States. Yet just 84% of adult Boston residents had earned at least a high school diploma, below the nationwide rate of 85.9%.

6. St. Paul, Minn.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 67.72 (6th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 36.5% (21st highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 4.96 (6th most)
> Median income: $42,069 (24th lowest)

St. Paul ranked the highest among all cities for the number and variety of bookstores. The city also ranked seventh-highest in both newspaper readership and publication circulation. St. Paul, a city of less than 300,000 residents, had 17 journals with a circulation of more than 500 readers, which is very high for all but the largest cities. Weekday newspaper circulation was just under 200,000, as of the most recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, while Sunday newspaper circulation was more than 272,000. That circulation-to-population ratio was higher than all but five other large cities.