Don't get defensive. That's just what Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, says in the seventh-annual report America's Most Literate Cities 2010 released today. Yet again, when ranking the 75 top-population cities in the U.S., Miller looked at six "key indicators of literacy," including the newspaper numbers tallied by the Audit Bureau of Circulation; the number of listed-in-the-Yellow Pages bookstores dealing in new, used and rare (but not "adult") product; library resources per capita; the percentage of residents with high school and college degrees; and "periodical publishing resources." Guess which two categories really dragged down Dallas, which shows up in the bottom half of the pack.
USA Today, which got the first glance at the study, found an urban planner who said, look, people aren't reading less. It's actually that "people are reading more things and less in depth. They're getting briefed," according to UNLV's Robert Lang. "The bigger finding [is] what's consumed is different."
Nevertheless, out of the Top 75, Dallas ranks 44 -- between Albuquerque and Sacramento, and a number that's actually up four spots from last year's ranking. And that's better than Fort Worth and Plano and Arlington (which comes in near the bottom, at 71, just above El Paso). Austin, surprise surprise, is the No. 1 city in Texas, coming in at No. 21.
Here's how we rate for each individual category:
Bookstores (per 10,000 population): 46
Education Level (which is based on the percentage of the adult population with a high school diploma or higher and the percentage of the adult population with a bachelor's degree): 58
Internet Resources (based upon number of internet book orders per capita, number of unique visitors per capita to a city's internet version newspaper, and number of webpage views per capita to a city's internet version newspaper): 16.5
Libraries (based upon number of branch libraries per 10,000 library service population; volumes held in the library per capita of library service population; number of circulations per capita of library service population; number of library professional staff per 10,000 library service population): 31
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Newspapers (based upon weekday circulation and Sunday circulation): 47
Periodical Publishers (based upon number of magazine publishers with circulation over 2,500 per 100,000 population and number of journals published with circulation over 500 per 100,000 population): 37.5
From the overview, there is this bright note about Plano, though:
US Better Educated but No Longer World Leader
According to Miller, "It's true that Americans are somewhat better educated now than they were at the outset of this survey. In 2004, we noted that on average, roughly 26 percent of the population of our largest cities possessed a college degree or higher. Now, that number is over 30 percent. But at the same time, America has continued to decline as the world's college-educated leader: the US currently ranks 12th place among 36 developed nations, according to a recent report by the College Board.3 Other nations are passing us by."
In response to this decline, President Obama has set a goal for at least 55 percent of the population to have a college degree by 2020. How far we have to go is demonstrated by the fact that, at this point, among our largest cities only Seattle reaches Obama's goal (at 56 percent), and only Plano, TX, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Raleigh, NC, Atlanta, and Boston are even relatively close. Cities such as Detroit, Toledo, Santa Ana, and Newark barely reach double digits and are especially in need of focused efforts. While suburbs tend to be the haven of college graduates, core cities are in real trouble and lag far behind.