For the first time in over 10 years, Baltimore is not considered one of the United States' Most Literate Cities.For over thirteen years, Dr. Jack Miller, President Emeritus of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn, has been publishing a list of the United States' Most Literate Big Cities. He starts with the list of the country's largest cities and proceeds to rank them in terms of literacy. However, he considers literacy to be more than just being able to read. Miller ranks cities in terms of how much they actually read. To accomplish that, he has to look beyond educational levels or budgets. The studies focus on other variables, such as how many bookstores a community has, access to
2016 marked the first time Baltimore has ever ranked in the 30s. The closest the city ever came was in 2007 when the city was #27 overall on the literacy list.
As recently as 2014, Baltimore ranked #15 - the highest position it has ever held on the list. The jump from #15 to #31 is one of the largest seen in the survey, so we wanted to dive deeper into the methodology to see just why Baltimore slid so far down in the rankings.
To arrive at a ranking, Dr. Miller uses composite scores for six literacy variables.
1. The number of booksellers per 100,000 residents.
2. An educational attainment index, measuring percentages of the adult population holding high school and bachelors degrees.
3. Use of internet resources.
4. Available public library resources.
5. Newspaper subscription totals.
6. Magazine and periodical subscription totals.
[caption id="attachment_773" align="aligncenter" width="481"] Baltimore's 2014 literacy category scores[/caption]
In 2014, Baltimore scored better-than-average scores in every category except Education, where the city's ranking was #50 out of 77 large cities.
This year, however, Baltimore's scores dropped in almost every category.
[caption id="attachment_774" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Baltimore's 2016 literacy category scores[/caption]
Baltimore's scores fell in the Education (#50→#51), Internet (#10→#55), Library (#27→#31) and Newspaper (#28.5→#42) categories. Though, the city actually increased the number of bookstores per 100,000 residents.
The biggest drop came in the Internet category. Is this demotion deserved? Yes and no.
This year, Dr. Miller changed the way he calculated cities' Internet scores. In previous years, smaller cities without data for residents' Internet usage were given last place on the category rankings.
For example, data aggregators did not consider Aurora, Colorado large enough to warrant its own Internet usage data set. In 2014, this lack of data left Aurora tied for last place in Dr. Miller's Internet ranking. However, starting in 2016, Aurora was reclassified as part of the Denver metropolitan area. As a result, Aurora, CO jumped all the way to being tied with Denver for the 9th position on the list.
When you take this change into account, along with the addition of 5 new cities to the list, you can account for some of Baltimore's fall in the rankings, but not all of it. A more accurate way to look at it is that Baltimore probably never should have been ranked as high in literacy as it was. Had it not been for artificially high Internet rankings balancing the city's poor Education statistics, Baltimore's overall literacy rankings would have been much lower for the past decade.
So the good news is that Baltimore's literacy rank didn't really plummet. The bad news is that it has probably been low all along.
1. Washington, DC 2. Seattle, Washington 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota 4. Atlanta, Georgia 5. San Francisco, California 6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 7. Portland, Oregon 8. Cincinnati, Ohio 9. St. Paul, Minnesota 10. Boston, Massachusetts 11. Denver, Colorado
12. St. Louis, Missouri
13. Raleigh, North Carolina
14. Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee
15. Durham, North Carolina
16. Kansas City, Missouri
17. Austin, Texas
18. Honolulu, Hawaii
19. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
20. Colorado Springs, Colorado
21. Cleveland, Ohio
22. Chicago, Illinois
23. Columbus, Ohio
24. Lincoln, Nebraska
25.5 New Orleans, Louisiana
25.5. Tulsa, Oklahoma
27. Orlando, Florida
28. New York, New York
29. Indianapolis, Indiana
30. Oakland, California
31. Baltimore, Maryland
32. San Diego, California
33.5. Omaha, Nebraska
33.5 Plano, Texas
35. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
36. Irvine, California
37. St. Petersburg, Florida
38. Greensboro, North Carolina
39. Sacramento, California
40. Louisville-Jefferson Co., Kentucky
41. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
42. Dallas, Texas
43. Virginia Beach, Virginia
44. Charlotte, North Carolina
45.5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
45.5. Buffalo, New York
47. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
48. Newark, New Jersey
49. Fort Wayne, Indiana