February 7, 2013
NEW BRITAIN, CT - A national survey of America’s Most Literate Cities finds Washington, DC as the nation’s most literate. This makes DC’s third appearance at the top. Results of the survey were first announced in USA Today, available online here.
The study, now in its tenth year, is conducted annually by Dr. Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University. It measures a key component in America’s social health by ranking the culture and resources for reading in America’s 75 largest cities. The top 10 cities are:
- Washington, DC
- Seattle, WA
- Minneapolis, MN
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Denver, CO
- St. Paul, MN
- Boston, MA
- Atlanta, GA
- St. Louis, MO
- Portland, OR
The complete rankings are available online at: www.ccsu.edu/amlc2012.
Criteria for Literacy
The study ranks cities based on research data for 6 key indicators of their citizens’ use of literacy: booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation, and periodical publishing resources. The information is compared against population rates in each city to develop a per capita profile of the city’s literacy.
Measure of Literate Behaviors Trending Down
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that Americans continue to move away from traditional reading materials—further away, perhaps, from what we have understood to be the basic literate behavior of sustained, engaged reading. As average income after taxes has risen more than 48%, 2000 to 2012, the amount Americans spend on average for reading materials (books, newspapers, and magazines, principally) has declined more than 30% (when e-readers are included, the decline is still 22%). It’s not that Americans lack time for reading. Annual expenditures for entertainment other than reading has grown 25% since 2000, and annual spending on audio visual equipment such as TVs and cable service is 8 and a half times greater than that spent on reading—more than double the ratio in 2000. And as the New York Times recently reported, “more Americans belong to a fantasy sports league (10.6 million) than belong to book clubs (5.7 million)” (according to the 2013 Statistical Abstract of the US).
Other measures of literacy continue to underscore this trend: among the 75 cities we examined, average weekday newspaper circulation has declined over 37% since 2003, and library use (as measured in volumes and circulation per capita) has stayed flat.
In 2007, Dr. Miller reported a particularly troubling trend: “while Americans are becoming more and more educated in terms of their time spent in school and their achieved education level, they are decreasing in terms of literate behaviors.” That trend continues unabated. In 2003, the average percent of the cities’ population with a BA or better was 27.35%. In 2012, that rate stands at 30.3%.
What this strongly suggests, according to Dr. Miller, is that “the context for reading is undergoing dramatic, rapidly increasing change on a number of fronts. These are truly fascinating times for those of us who study literacy. But I am concerned about what these changes portend for our country.”
The first America’s Most Literate Cities study was published in 2003. Research for this edition of the study was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at CCSU. The complete rankings are available online at: www.ccsu.edu/amlc2012. For more information about the 2012 rankings, call: 860-832-0065; or email: AMLC@CCSU.edu
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