Friday, January 21, 2011

America's Most Literate Cities Study is Kind of Dumb

Posted By on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Every year, Central Connecticut State University releases a study on which American cities are the most literate. The good news: Tucson moved up from last year's ranking of 45 to 33rd place (right behind Philadelphia), which I guess means some smart people moved here or some dumb people left. My wife started a book club in 2010, maybe that helped.

But here's the catch: the metrics they use to determine which cities are literate and which aren't may or may not have much to do with literacy at all. For example, the number of bookstores per 10,000 people is a factor, with Seattle coming in number one. Seattle has some nice bookstores, but what about cities with a few really big and awesome bookstores, like Portland (which tied for fourth) or Denver which ended up in ninth? I think any book lover would be happy to live in Portland and possibly less excited to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Nothing personal, Cincinnati.)

Also, then there's the matter of daily newspaper circulation. Washington D.C. comes in first, and if I lived in that city, I'd probably get the paper too, because it's a great paper. Other cities might have the papers their illiterate dullard citizens deserve, I guess, but then again, maybe some local papers aren't really worth reading? Does that reflect the people in the city or the paper itself?

So, these things come out every year and people like me report on them, but don't let our relative illiteracy get you down. We're plenty smart here and people like us, even if we apparently don't have a sufficient number of bookstores.

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