Not So Literate City

January 27, 2012 |  by  |  Possible City  | 

Despite having an enormous student population, Philadelphia ranks 31nd among American cities of 250,000 people or more for literacy. Washington, DC is first, Seattle second, and Minneapolis third in Central Connecticut State University’s annual report. New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and New Orleans all ranked higher than Philadelphia.

The rankings are based on: levels of newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

What’s interesting–and most surprising to me–is that Philadelphia ranked 39–stunningly low–in library resources. This city maintains–sometimes to the chagrin of politicians looking for fat in the city’s budget–an enormous branch library system, certainly one of the largest in the nation. Can it be that St. Louis, Toledo, and Fort Wayne, Indiana provide more?

The city ranked batter in magazine publication and circulation (#11) and Internet resources (also #11).

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



1 Comment


  1. Many of these metrics seem antiquated in the digital age. You can read the newspaper and most anything else online, or on a Kindle, etc? This strikes me as one of the more worthless studies I’ve read recently.

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