America’s Most (and Least) Literate Cities

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America’s Least Literate Cities

10. Long Beach, Calif.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 16.61 (52nd highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 28.8% (37th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 3.20 (11th most)
> Median income: $51,214 (17th highest)

Long Beach, part of the Greater Los Angeles Area, was ranked the 10th-least literate city in 2012. One area, however, in which the city performed relatively well was bookstores. It ranked 29th out of the 76 cities in this category, and had the 11th most retail bookstores per capita. In most of the other categories, Long Beach performed very poorly. Most notably, the city received the worst possible score awarded for Internet reading. It also had among the worst scores for the presence of publications and journals. The city’s poor literacy score, however, cannot be blamed on a lack of wealthy individuals as it had a higher-than-average median income in 2011, as well as the eighth-highest median home value among the nation’s largest cities.

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9. Mesa, Ariz.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0
> Pct. adults with college degree: 23.1% (16th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 2.22 (21st most)
> Median income: $44,527 (37th lowest)

Mesa was tied with Stockton for the lowest per capita circulation of magazines and journals. Residents also lacked critical access to library facilities. The city was one of the nation’s worst performers for library volume, circulation and professional staff. In a city of 440,232 people, mesa had just three public branches. However, in mid-2012 Mesa reversed funding cuts to the city’s library system initiated in 2009 due to the recession.

8. Aurora, Colo.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0
> Pct. adults with college degree: 26.9% (29th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 4.06 (10th most)
> Median income: $49,593 (23rd highest)

Aurora’s library system ranked second-worst among the nation’s large cities, behind only Santa Ana. At less than 0.5 library books per person, the library’s collection is the smallest of any city measured, relative to the size of its population. Further, the library has just three branches for more than 330,000 residents. According to the CCSU study, just one journal with more than 500 readers and two magazines with more tha 2,500 readers are published in Aurora County. By comparison, the university listed 357 such publications in Washington, D.C.

7. Fresno, Calif.
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 21.04 (43rd highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 19.1% (7th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 0.74 (15th least)
> Median income: $40,533 (20th lowest)

Fresno scored in the lower half of all literacy-related categories, including several among the bottom. The city scored fifth from last for the number of journals and magazines. Fresno also tied with Miami for third from last in educational attainment: about 74% of the city’s residents aged 25 and over had a high school diploma in 2011, while about 19% had a bachelor’s degree. Both figures were among the lowest of all 76 cities measured. The low education levels have led to lower incomes. Nearly 29% of the population was below the poverty line in Fresno, ranking it among the 10 major cities with the highest poverty rate. The median income of $40,533 in 2011 was roughly $10,000 less than the median across the country.

6. San Antonio, Texas
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 10.08 (67th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 25.0% (23rd lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 0.45 (tied-2nd least)
> Median income: $42,613 (26th lowest)

San Antonio’s score in each of the six categories was low, but it scored particularly poorly in the presence of libraries and book retailers. The city had the seventh-lowest number of library branches per capita, and the second-lowest number of retail bookstores per capita among the largest cities. San Antonio also received a poor score for online reading, although the city may be on track to changing this. San Antonio is planning to open an entirely digital library, which will allow patrons to download digital books to their e-readers.