America’s Most (and Least) Literate Cities

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America’s Least Literate Cities

10. Mesa, AZ
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0.0 (tied-the lowest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 24.8% (20th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 3.23 (19th most)
> Median income: $47,256 (32nd highest)

Mesa was one of just nine U.S. cities that had no newspapers published in 2013. The city also had just four libraries to accommodate the reading interests of its more than 450,000 residents. Mesa’s population was not as educated as many other large cities as of 2012 — less than one quarter of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree that year. Since Scott Smith was elected mayor in 2008, five new liberal arts colleges have indicated they would open campuses in the city. This may eventually improve the the reading culture among the populace and the demand for more reading services and material.

9. Aurora, CO
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0.0 (tied-the lowest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 27.3% (28th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 5.37 (10th most)
> Median income: $50,512 (22nd highest)

Booksellers were exceptionally prominent in Aurora, where there were more than five bookstores per 10,000 residents, more than in the majority of major cities. Despite this, access to reading materials and the use of electronic reading formats were on the whole very poor. Aurora had no local newspapers as of 2013. Residents were also among the least likely to read via the Internet, a mobile device or an e-reader.

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8. Fresno, CA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 19.0 (34th lowest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 19.4% (7th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 1.03 (16th least)
> Median income: $38,386 (15th lowest)

As was the case with many cities with poor reading habits, Fresno had few bookstores — slightly more than one per 10,000 residents. Less than 75% of residents had at least a high school diploma, and less than one-fifth had at least a bachelor’s degree, both among the worst nationwide. Low rates of educational attainment have likely lowered incomes in the region. Median income in Fresno was among the lowest, at under $39,000 in 2012. Residents were also among the least likely to use the Internet or other devices to access reading materials.

7. Chula Vista, CA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0.0 (tied-the lowest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 27.9% (30th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 6.06 (8th most)
> Median income: $62,421 (6th highest)

Of the six measures of literacy measured by the study, Chula Vista fared the worst for its magazine and journal publications. There was only one major magazine in circulation in the city in 2013, and not one journal. Also, no newspapers were published in Chula Vista last year, one of only a handful of cities where this was the case. Public libraries in the city have made efforts recently to improve services, including free e-book lending and free tax assistance to library patrons.

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6. Anaheim, CA
> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 0.0 (tied-the lowest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 23.4% (14th lowest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 6.49 (5th most)
> Median income: $55,464 (11th highest)

There were more than 200 retail bookstores serving Anaheim’s more than 343,000 residents. With about 6.5 outlets per 10,000 residents, readers had greater access to bookstores than most other U.S. cities. Based on most other measures, however, literacy was poor in the city. For example, access to other reading materials was dismal in the city, with no newspapers published. Another explanation for the city’s poor literacy could be low educational attainment rates, which tends to mean less demand for publications. Only 73.4% of the population had at least a high school diploma in 2012, among the worst graduation rates nationwide.