Sunday, March 10, 2013

Most (and Least) Literate US Cities

A few weeks ago Central Connecticut State University released its annual survey of the most literate cities in the United States. The study ranked the cities based on six areas of literacy: size of library systems, presence of bookstores, educational attainment, digital readership, circulation of newspapers, and other publications. Only cities with a population of 250,000 or more were included, and in the bookstore category those listed as either "religious" or "adult" were excluded.

The top-ranked cities came as no real surprise; here are the Top Ten:

1. Washington, DC
2. Seattle, WA
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Pittsburgh, PA
5. Denver, CO
6. St. Paul, MN
7. Boston, MA
8. Atlanta, GA
9. St. Louis, MO
10. Portland, OR

The lowest ranked cities did surprise me, for one glaring reason::

67. Long Beach, CA
68. Mesa, AZ
69. Aurora, CO
70. Fresno, CA
71. San Antonio, TX
72. Anaheim, CA
73. El Paso, TX
74. Stockton, CA
75. Corpus Christi, TX
76. Bakersfield, CA

Of the 10 least-literate cities in America, 8 were in either California or Texas. Being a Texan (and obviously one concerned with books, reading, literacy, etc) this concerned me. So I looked at where cities in my area ranked. (Note: Austin came in at a fairly respectable #23, but is not close enough to be considered local).

45. Plano
47. Dallas
52. Fort Worth
64. Arlington

So of the two cities closest to me (and the most likely locations for the brick-and-mortar incarnation of Somerset Books), Fort Worth couldn't crack the Top 50, and Arlington only missed the Bottom 10 by three spots.

Some would look at these numbers and tell me that if I want to open a bookstore, then get the hell out of Texas (and stay out of California), and that is certainly a point to ponder. Yet there is obviously a great need for independent bookstores in my area, and someone needs to meet that need. So the the optimist in me looks at these numbers and thinks that maybe I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

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