America's Most (and Least) Literate Cities

For the third year in a row, Washington, D.C., was rated the most literate city in the United States, with Seattle and Minneapolis close behind. That is according to a study conducted by Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) of the literacy of the nation’s largest cities.

The study ranked the cities based on six dimensions of literacy, including size of library systems, presence of bookstores, educational attainment, digital readership, circulation of newspapers and other publications. The most literate cities in the country were often, but not always, in tech-heavy regions with highly educated populations. Based on the university’s report, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most and least literate cities in the country.

Click here to see the 10 most literate cities

Click here to see the 10 least literate cities

According to Dr. John W. Miller, CCSU president and head of this study, the goal of the report, America’s Most Literate Cities, was not to examine whether people can read, but if they actually do read. “There’s a lot of emphasis on whether people can read; this is more about whether people practice literate behavior,” Miller said.

A review of industry composition from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the most literate cities shows that, for the most part, they have a large proportion of high-paying jobs that require a college education, and cities that rank poorly do not.

Of the 10 most literate cities, the majority have many residents in management, scientific fields and in professions requiring a high level of educational attainment. These areas are not necessarily the wealthiest in the country by median income, but which have a large population of high-earning individuals — the type that, according to Miller, tend to be more literate. Atlanta, for example, which is one of the most literate cities in the country, ranked 43rd in median income among major cities in 2011, but was fifth for the proportion of adults earning more than $200,000 per year.

Dr. Miller explained that cities with highly educated professionals tend to score better for obvious reasons: “If you’re a limited English speaker, and you’re working three jobs to make a living, chances are you’re not going to a bookstore, you don’t subscribe to a newspaper, and chances are you’re not using the library too much.”

Most of the highly literate cities fit the description above, but some buck the trend. People might think that San Jose would fit the mold of a high-income, literate city, given its tech background, but that is not the case according to Dr. Miller. While it is fourth-highest in the country in Internet reading, it ranks 59th for bookstores, 69th for libraries and among the 10 worst for journals and magazines. Cleveland, a low-income, high-poverty city with poor educational levels and a lack of high-paying professional jobs, is number one in libraries, with more branches per capita than anywhere else in the country.

Based on the report published by Central Connecticut State University, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the literacy ranking of the 76 U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more. According to the study, cities received a literacy score on six categories — library systems, bookstores, educational attainment, digital readership, newspapers and other publications. Each score was ranked on the availability of the category or circulation relative to the size of the population. 24/7 Wall St. also reviewed 2011 data from the Census Bureau, including income, poverty, educational attainment, and the percentage of workers employed in various job types.

These are America’s most and least literate cities.

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