Thursday, January 03, 2008

Our most literate cities

Dr. Jack Miller, President of Central Connecticut State University, has ranked major US cities (population > 250,000) according to how literate they are (see The rankings are based on a variety of different measures, which he divides into the following categories: "Booksellers; Educational attainment; Internet Resources; Library Resources; Newspaper Circulation; and Periodical publications." I've lived in three of the cities on the list: Portland, OR, my current home, which ranks #12; Seattle, WA, where I went to graduate school, way up at #2; and Stockton, CA, a short drive from my hometown as well as the home of my undergraduate alma mater, which ranks dead last (no surprise--it's hard to get much reading done when you're dodging bullets).

It would be interesting to see how these rankings correlate with other city characteristics. Are cities with lousy weather more literate than sunny places? That would explain why Minneapolis, Seattle, and St. Paul hold the top 3 spots. How about average commute time? That could be an advantage if audiobooks count. And how about the presence and quality of professional sports teams? Other recreation opportunities? And do literacy rates correlate positively or negatively with consumption of other media--music, movies, TV, etc.? I could make some assumptions, but the reality might not be so obvious. How about the birth rate? Reading in bed would tend to detract from other activities, and people with children have less time to read than the childless do (trust me--that one I know from firsthand experience).

Inquiring, literate minds want to know more...

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