Thursday, December 24, 2009

Literate statistics

Central Connecticut State University released a ranking of “America’s Most Literate Cities 2009”. Since I posted only yesterday about reading and books in New Zealand, I was interested.

What I found was that “This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.” All those categories are defined on the CCSU study site.

To calculate how “literate” a place is, one has to have things that can be measured, and they picked some of what they thought were good indicators. I thought some were a bit odd, or oddly defined.

When I talked about reading in New Zealand, I referred to a time and use study, which is a way of measuring if people themselves are literate by how much time they spend reading. I decided to see how Auckland fared using just a couple of their indicators:

Bookstores: There are approximately 1.2 bookstores per 10,000 people in Auckland—this is all bookstores, across all categories, calculated using a search tally from the Yellow Pages.

Newspaper readership: In 2008, 39.4% of Aucklanders aged 15+ read a typical issue of the daily New Zealand Herald, and 23.7% read the Herald on Sunday. In addition, 11.9% of Aucklanders aged 15+ read a typical copy of the Sunday News, and 18.5% read the Sunday Star-Times. [Source: Nielsen Media National Readership Survey Q1 2008 - Q4 2008 Nationwide face to face interviewing of 12,000 people aged 10+]

These are crude statistics, in part because spending only a little time on the afternoon of December 24 meant I couldn’t hope to get the same amount of raw data that the study author had. Another reason the statistics aren’t comparable is that I have no idea how they compare to the study’s US cities—those statistics aren’t on the site, only their rankings.

This is just some information I put together after reading the study and became curious; on the Internet, one thing inevitably leads to another, and sharing what’s found is the next logical step. Who knows, one day I may be able to do a more comprehensive examination—or find someone else who has.

The top 10 “most literate” cities in the US are: 1 Seattle, 2 Washington DC, 3 Minneapolis, MN, 4 Pittsburgh, PA, 5 Atlanta, GA, 6 Portland, OR, 7 St. Paul, MN, 8 Boston, MA, 9 Cincinnati, OH and 19 Denver, CO.


liminalD said...

I just KNEW Portland, Seattle and Boston would be in there, going by the fact that all the Atheist/LGBT/Poly people I know in the States live in those cities. Ah, stereotypes.... probably accounts for my surprise at Denver's inclusion.

Are these all university towns? :)

Arthur Schenck said...

Well, yes, they DO all have universities, but that's not necessarily their claim to fame: Several are state capitals, Washington is the national capital; Denver and Atlanta are both more liberal than their surrounding states, but Cincinnati is arguably more conservative. Also, almost all major cities—even conservative ones—have liberal and bohemian areas.

Honestly, without more information about how the data was weighted ranked, I couldn't possibly evaluate how reasonable/accurate these city rankings are.

Roger Owen Green said...

Cincinnati does surprise me. NYC at 29th also does.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yep, Roger, those surprised me, too.