Special Report

America's Most (and Least) Literate Cities

5. Pittsburgh, PA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 50.0 (15th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 38.4% (18th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 3.39 (17th most)
> Median income: $39,884 (18th lowest)

Pittsburgh residents were more likely to use a library than residents of any other city except for Cleveland. The city’s good reading habits may be partly the result of the University of Pittsburgh and its 35,000 students. Students in Pittsburgh had more media specialists available to them than those in all but one other city — more than three per 1,000 students. High school graduation rates were also among the best in 2012, at 92.4%. Accessing reading material via a portable device or the Internet, however, was not as popular in Pittsburgh as it was in other literate cities.

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4. Atlanta, GA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 56.2 (9th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 47.4% (5th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 4.46 (12th most)
> Median income: $46,466 (34th highest)

Atlanta residents interested in reading a Sunday newspaper had more options available to them than in any other city reviewed. ,There were more than 150 Sunday papers per 100 residents in circulation in 2013. Newspapers were widely distributed during the week as well last year, with more than 55 papers in circulation per 100 residents. Magazines were also popular reading materials in Atlanta. Seventy-seven publishers had at least 2,500 magazines in circulation in 2013, more than in all but five other cities.

3. Minneapolis, MN
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 76.5 (4th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 46.8% (6th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 5.24 (11th most)
> Median income: $47,604 (30th highest)

There were 41 libraries in Minneapolis in 2010, more than in all but three other cities. Library patrons had more than 15 items checked out on average, among the highest circulation rates that year. Like neighboring St. Paul, bookstores were also more common in Minneapolis than they were in most cities. Minneapolis residents were more likely to read a newspaper than any other city except for Newark in 2013. More than 76 papers were in circulation per 100 residents during the week in Minneapolis, more than all but three other cities.

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2. Seattle, WA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 38.0 (22nd highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 57.7% (the highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 3.21 (20th most)
> Median income: $64,473 (5th highest)

While Amazon.com — headquartered in Seattle — distributes reading material all over the world, its presence may have had some positive effect on the reading culture of the city. There were more bookstores in Seattle than in many other cities. Seattle’s 27 libraries were also used more than those in most other large cities. On average, a library in Seattle had 19 items circulating among its patrons, more than in all but three other cities. One explanation for Seattle’s excellent reading culture could be the high levels of educational attainment. Nearly 80% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, better than any other region reviewed.

1. Washington, DC
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 68.2 (5th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 53.0% (3rd highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 2.23 (28th most)
> Median income: $66,583 (4th highest)

D.C. residents were more likely to be reading a variety of media using almost every format. Whether they were using e-readers, books, or mobile devices, people living in Washington D.C. read the most. A strong presence of publishers and libraries may have played a role. More than 160 journals had at least 500 regular readers in 2013, more than in all but two other cities reviewed. Magazine publishers fared even better, with 215 publications distributing their content to larger readerships, more than in than all but one other city. There were 431,521 newspapers in circulations during the week, more than the vast majority of cities.

Click here to see America’s Least Literate Cities