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Why the Most Literate City in America Aren't the Wealthiest

Money can't buy literacy.


Washington, D.C. has been ranked the most literate city in America—the second year in a row it's snagged the title. Since 2003, the annual study of America's Most Literate Cities has crunched numbers on six key literacy indicators: "newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and internet resources" in cities with a population of 250,000 people or more.

But this year, study author Dr. John Miller dug deeper. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, compared his literacy data with income figures from the U.S. Census to find out if there's any correlation between a city's wealth and its literacy.


Apparently, money can't buy literacy. Miller says he "learned that wealthier cites are no more likely to rank highly in literacy than poorer cities." Take Cleveland—though the hard-hit city has the second lowest median family income of all cities in the survey, its library system is one of the best in the country. Cleveland also boasts the sixth highest newspaper readership and ranks fifth in magazine circulations. Despite its economic troubles, the city ranked 13th in literacy overall.

In comparison, Anchorage has the fifth-highest median family income, but ranks 61st in literacy. The rise of the Occupy movement has increased our awareness of income inequality across the United States. Even the poorest cities can help close the gap by investing in public education and literacy resources. Although "poverty has a strong impact on educational attainment," Miller says, cities that are "truly committed to literacy" can find a way to "create and sustain rich resources for reading."

Check out this year's 20 most literate cities:

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Friar's Balsam.

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