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 photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

  3. How To

    Could Urban Farms Be the Preschools of the Future?

    A group of architects proposed a new design to help raise environmentally responsible kids.

  4. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

  5. a photo rendering of "Siemensstadt 2.0" in Berlin
    Life

    Berlin’s Take on a High-Tech ‘Smart City’ Could Be Different

    The German company Siemens is launching an ambitious adaptive reuse project to revitalize its historic corporate campus, with a modern data-collecting twist.

×