Jeff Wilcox

It's the District's third year atop Central Connecticut State's literacy rankings.

The rankings of America's most literate cities are beginning to look like the table of a European soccer league: the same cities are on top every year.

In 2012, Washington D.C. was the country's most "literate" city for the third year running. The rankings, put together by Central Connecticut State University President John W. Miller, integrate data on booksellers, libraries, newspapers, publishing, and education to calculate a broader measurement of literacy.

The top ten cities look familiar. With the exception of St. Louis and Atlanta, they all make frequent high appearances on quality-of-life indexes. They are also forging a dynasty atop Miller's CCSU's literacy rankings, which have been published since 2005. Here's this year's top ten, with the 2005 rank in parentheses:

Ranking City
1 Washington, D.C. (3)
2 Seattle (1)
3 Minneapolis (2)
4 Pittsburgh (8)
5 Denver (6)
6 St. Paul (10)
7 Boston (7)
8 Atlanta (4)
9 St. Louis (15)
10 Portland (11)


The top three cities are the same as they were in 2005, and after eight years, the top ten has only two newcomers.

That's quite surprising, considering the subject material. The publishing industry, which is broadly responsible for three of the study's six categories, has changed dramatically since CCSU first published the rankings. But despite the tumult in the world of bookstores, magazines and newspapers, the rankings look very similar.

Here's 2012's top ten cities for newspapers, weekday and Sunday circulation divided by population. Their 2005 rank is in parentheses.

Ranking City
1 Newark (1)
2 Minneapolis (3)
3 Santa Ana (9)
4 Washington, D.C. (2)
4 Cleveland (11)
6 Denver (7)
7 St. Paul (15)
8 Atlanta (5)
9 Pittsburgh (9)
9 St. Louis (8)


Eight years later, this top ten, too, is much the same. Are there no movers or shakers in newspaper circulation at this level?

Another potentially volatile category is Internet resources, where the rankings are a function (per capita) of library connections, public wireless access, Internet book orders, and online newspaper reading. 2005 was a rad year on the Internet, but it was a long time ago. Gmail and Facebook were a year old and scarcely used. Twitter and Reddit did not exist.

Yet there is only marginally more change here. The 2012 rankings, with 2005 in parentheses:

Ranking City
1 Washington D.C. (11)
2 Boston (2)
3 Oakland (5)
3 San Francisco (4)
3 San Jose (8)
6 Austin (3)
7 Seattle (1)
8 New York City (16)
9 Philadelphia (27)
10 Denver (7)

 
Seven of the top ten are the same. Only one city, Philadelphia, moves into the top ten from more than ten places away, jumping from 27th to 9th.

Plus ça change...

Top image: Flickr/Jeff Wilcox.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a map of future climate risks in the U.S.
    Maps

    America After Climate Change, Mapped

    With “The 2100 Project: An Atlas for A Green New Deal,” the McHarg Center tries to visualize how the warming world will reshape the United States.

  2. Life

    The Death and Life of the 13-Month Calendar

    Favored by leaders in transportation and logistics, the International Fixed Calendar was a favorite of Kodak founder George Eastman, whose company used it until 1989.

  3. photo: Robert Marbut, the incoming director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness,
    Equity

    The Consultant Leading the White House Push Against Homelessness

    In Texas and Florida, Robert Marbut Jr. sold cities on a controversial model for providing homeless services. Now he’s bringing it to the White House.

  4. photo: A man boards a bus in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Transportation

    Why Kansas City’s Free Transit Experiment Matters

    The Missouri city is the first major one in the U.S. to offer no-cost public transportation. Will a boost in subsidized mobility pay off with economic benefits?

  5. photo: an Uber driver.
    Perspective

    Did Uber Just Enable Discrimination by Destination?

    In California, the ride-hailing company is changing a policy used as a safeguard against driver discrimination against low-income and minority riders.

×