January 26, 2012

TOP TEN: Survey taken while Republican presidential candidates are out of town ranks Washington “most literate city” in the U.S.


This can’t be true: According to this year’s edition of the annual survey of American literacy from Central Connecticut State University, none other than Washington D.C. is, for the second year in a row, our nations “most literate city.”

A USA Today story says the rankings are based on “data that includes number of bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and Internet resources.”

And the top ten cities are:

1. Washington, D.C. (same as in 2010)
2. Seattle (same as in 2010)
3. Minneapolis (same as in 2010)
4. Atlanta (same as in 2010)
5. Boston (up from No. 12 in 2010)
6. Pittsburgh (down from No. 5 in 2010)
7. Cincinnati (up from No. 11 in 2010)
8. St. Louis (up from No 9.5 in 2010)
9. San Francisco (down from No. 6 in 2010)
10. Denver (down from No. 8 in 2010)

Of course, the survey is probably nonsense, but Central Connecticut President Jack Miller makes some interesting points when talking about it. For example, he says that ”wealthier cites are no more likely to rank highly in literacy than poorer cities.” For example, he notes that “Anchorage, Alaska, is ranked 5th in median family income and only 61st in literacy,” while Cleveland is the nation’s second lowest median income, but due to its libraries, and things like newspaper and magazine circulations, “it’s ranked 13th most literate in the survey.”

And here’s something USA Today doesn’t note, bless them: New York City, America’s cultural capital, seat of our publishing industry, mecca of wannabe writers from around the globe … isn’t even on the list.


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.