Atlanta ranks 4th on most literate city list

11:42 PM, Feb 6, 2014   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- For the fourth consecutive year, Washington is America's most literate city, according to an annual statistical study ranking the nation's 77 largest cities.

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The study, conducted by Central Connecticut State University President John Miller, is based on data that include the number of bookstores, library resources, Internet use, educational levels and newspaper circulation.

Given the popularity of lists that rank the safest cities or best retirement communities, Miller began his study in 2003 to draw attention to "literacy: how much people are reading and where they are reading the most."

He acknowledges that the study, which includes cities with populations of at least 250,000, measures quantity, not quality. "That's more subjective and harder to verify," he says. To those who complain or question his rankings, he says: "Show me the data."

The rankings for the top 10 cities in 2013, with comparisons to 2012:

1. Washington (same as 2012)

2. Seattle (same as 2012)

3. Minneapolis (same as 2012)

4. (tie) Atlanta (up from No. 8)

5. (tie) Pittsburgh (held No. 4 alone in 2012)

6. Denver (down from No. 5)

7. St. Paul (down from No. 6)

8. Boston (down from No. 7)

9. St. Louis (same as 2012)

10. San Francisco (up from No. 11)

Miller says some of findings seem counterintuitive:

  •  Parts of the "Rust Belt aren't so rusty" when it comes to public libraries. Cleveland is No. 1, and Pittsburgh is No. 2, based on the number of branches, volumes, circulation and staff per capita.
  • Boston is No. 27 in education levels, despite being home to scores of colleges, because of "its abysmal high school dropout rates."
  • Washington, not New York (No. 16 on the overall list), scores highest for the number of magazine and journal publishers "because of all the trade publications devoted to politics and the federal government."
Miller, the former chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and dean of the College of Education at Florida State University, notes regional differences:  Older cities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic generally scored higher; cities in California and the Southwest the lowest. At the bottom of the list: Bakersfield, Calif. (No. 77), Corpus Christi, Texas (No. 76), Stockton, Calif. (No. 75) and El Paso, Texas(No. 74). 

Miller says "it may take a very long history to develop a culture of literate practices."Next year, he's planning to take his study global and rank the most literate countries. He predicts that Finland may surprise people.

How can Atlanta become #1? Tweet us your ideas using #11Alive.

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