Atlanta is the nation’s eighth most literate city

Atlanta is ranked the nation's eighth most literate city. (AP Images)

Atlanta is ranked the nation's eighth most literate city. (AP Images)

I was delighted to see Atlanta’s inclusion in the top 10 list of literate cities. Atlanta is ranked the eighth most literate city in the country.

Here is the official release:

A national survey of America’s Most Literate Cities finds Washington, DC, as the nation’s most literate. This makes DC’s third appearance at the top.

The study, now in its 10th year, is conducted annually by Dr. Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT.It measures a key component in America’s social health by ranking the culture and resources for reading in America’s 75 largest cities.

The top 10 cities are:

Washington, DC

Seattle, WA

Minneapolis, MN

Pittsburgh, PA

Denver, CO

St. Paul, MN

Boston, MA

Atlanta, GA

St. Louis, MO

Portland, OR

The study ranks cities based on research data for six key indicators of their citizens’ use of literacy: booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation, and periodical publishing resources. The information is compared against population rates in each city to develop a per capita profile of the city’s literacy.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that Americans continue to move away from traditional reading materials—further away, perhaps, from what we have understood to be the basic literate behavior of sustained, engaged reading. As average income after taxes has risen more than 48 percent, 2000 to 2012, the amount Americans spend on average for reading materials (books, newspapers, and magazines, principally) has declined more than 30 percent (when e-readers are included, the decline is still 22 percent.

It’s not that Americans lack time for reading. Annual expenditures for entertainment other than reading has grown 25 percent since 2000, and annual spending on audio visual equipment such as TVs and cable service is 8 and a half times greater than that spent on reading—more than double the ratio in 2000. And as the New York Times recently reported, “more Americans belong to a fantasy sports league (10.6 million) than belong to book clubs (5.7 million)” (according to the 2013 Statistical Abstract of the U.S.).

Other measures of literacy continue to underscore this trend: among the 75 cities we examined, average weekday newspaper circulation has declined over 37 percent since 2003, and library use (as measured in volumes and circulation per capita) has stayed flat.

In 2007, Dr. Miller reported a particularly troubling trend: “While Americans are becoming more and more educated in terms of their time spent in school and their achieved education level, they are decreasing in terms of literate behaviors.”

That trend continues unabated. In 2003, the average percent of the cities’ population with a BA or better was 27.35 percent. In 2012, that rate stands at 30.3 percent.

What this strongly suggests, according to Dr. Miller, is that “the context for reading is undergoing dramatic, rapidly increasing change on a number of fronts. These are truly fascinating times for those of us who study literacy. But I am concerned about what these changes portend for our country.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

85 comments Add your comment

Ron

February 9th, 2013
3:19 am

Maureen, not surprising that 8 out of 10 are blue cities!…and the liberal pos is from Connecticut…is this the extent of creative work you do? Good God almighty…write something meaningful and stop towing the liberal line. Journalism is dead. Admit it!!! Why don’t you report something from a conservative, fair and balanced university? (we all know why)

atl0707

February 9th, 2013
5:52 am

The two that I am not seeing in this list are San Francisco and New York City. I’m surprised Atlanta beat them out; perhaps their citizens do not have much time to read after working the many hours they must work each day to pay rent. It is interesting that most literate cities are also some of the bluest. That would indicate there is a correlation between education and political leanings. Perhaps the more you learn about the injustices in this country and about how our political establishment is basically there to ensure the rich keep as much money as possible the more likely you are to vote for people in favor of social programs. Let’s hope those in places outside of Atlanta, such as Dunwoody, start picking up more books.

Peter Smagorinsky

February 9th, 2013
6:06 am

Why is reporting positive things about pubic education considered to be a “liberal” cause?

bullcrap

February 9th, 2013
6:39 am

Went to school in Indiana….saw what my kids had to do in school here…no comparison..
Georgia literacy is about halfway there. Schools are harder up north. Drivers license test
is harder up north. Grade inflation is higher down south. You say access to booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation, and periodical publishing resources make Atlanta more literate. Access and resources don’t add up to literacy, being held accountable at school has a lot more to do with it.

Robert

February 9th, 2013
7:23 am

Atlanta may rank eighth in this study, but this survey hides more than it reveals. There are problems with so many peoples reading, writng, and math skills. That is one of the reasons the dropout rate approaches 50% in Atlanta Public Schools.

DeborahinAthens

February 9th, 2013
7:34 am

Good God almighty, Ron, maybe you need to sleep at 3 am instead of ranting. Interesting piece, Maureen. Just to pour gasoline on Ron…I would guess cities in TX would be low. Wonder what cities in Silicon Valley,where so much innovation is coming from, ranks.

Ole Guy

February 9th, 2013
8:06 am

Have you heard the big news (pant pant pant…outa breath with uncontained glee!)!! Atlanta is numero uno in the major metropolitan cities in the world where folks don’t piss their pants in public…they wait until they’re in the alley behind Walmart.

ONCE AGAIN, we find ourselves in celebration of mediocrity. We have truly hit rock bottom when we find ourselves shooting cannons in wild celebration of an…”accomplishment”…which, given the huge resources devoted toward 21st century education, should have been a “milestone” years and years and years ago. Now we find ourselves in self-congratulatory glee because we can now read, write, AND spell such toughies like cat, dog, and the biggie, (drum roll) billy goat. Jethro Bodine would be proud of this milestone in educational advancement…we have…arrived.

Michelle-Middle School

February 9th, 2013
8:11 am

What a joke! If Atlanta is so high in literacy, why is there such a tremendous trend in “my baby daddy, my momma house, waddup”, and other examples of the slaughter of the English language?

Beck

February 9th, 2013
8:12 am

Talk about your situations where anecdotal evidence and statistics don’t match up….

Lee

February 9th, 2013
8:32 am

“The study, now in its 10th year, is conducted annually by Dr. Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University…”

Anyone else besides me wondering if we taxpayers are footing the bill for this useless study? If so, Hey Obama, you wanting ideas on how to cut spending?? Here you go…

Al

February 9th, 2013
8:37 am

Some of you sound so ignorant. While ALL cities have issues, as does Atlanta, it does not make them illiterate. We rank 8th because of the number of universities & colleges as well as the facts stated. Publications, universities, big business all make a city more literate, not just “reading good.”

Not Quite

February 9th, 2013
9:14 am

Just because the resources are present doesn’t mean they are utilized. Fluff with no substance.

MiltonMan

February 9th, 2013
9:21 am

The study includes “metro” areas defined within the “cities.” Thank God Atlanta has a decent metro area or the “city” would be last in this area.

Illiterate in Dekalb

February 9th, 2013
9:30 am

They must have factored in online degrees.

Just Sayin

February 9th, 2013
10:02 am

I feel so sad for some of you. Is this what your life has come to?…..Getting online to be bitter an blast everything you see. Some of you even come back numerous times. It’s obvious that some of you are undercover racists and or elitist that hide behind the guise of I care what happens this is why I comment. The truth is that some of you are so far up on your high horse that I can’t believe your keyboards are covered in blood from the nose bleeds. Am I being judgy (sp)? Probably, but man give it a rest already. Yes I know freedom of speech all that blather, but freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of consequences. Well the consequence today is my frustrated rant. More that likely as with all things internet most of you come on here and lie about your lives and education and make comments to try to sound brilliant when all it does is make you look bitter and weak. Now I know the usual parties will come back and eviscerate me because god knows they don’t seem to have anything better to do, but I don’t care. GROW UP! You don’t like this city…move or try to make change. You don’t like this blog..read something else or create one of your own.

Dr No No

February 9th, 2013
10:05 am

Highly unlikely!

RCB

February 9th, 2013
10:10 am

I find this very hard to believe. The study does seem to put most weight on schools, libraries and material things available. Personally, I use as many as possible and am grateful. My guess is that he never visited the city and had to interact and hold a conversation with our residents, or viewed job applications submitted here. I would rather see a break-down of WHO is using these resources. I’d say it’s the same 10% again and again.

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
10:18 am

The problem about knowing how to read is that this makes it difficult to live in a fact-free magic world. http://americablog.com/2013/02/fox-news-solar-only-works-in-germany-because-its-sunny-there.html

Went to a restaurant last night, talked the owner who shared with me that his wife is a school teacher, takes kids who can not read and teaches them to read, has a career of excellent work reviews and is now being harassed by a principal and treated in a negative manner. I told him to get a private attorney (he has one). He told me that after this year his wife is going to take some time off (in other words, resign).

mountain man

February 9th, 2013
10:24 am

How about judging literacy based on the results of a High School minimum competency test. Oh, that’s right, Georgia did away with theirs.

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
10:35 am

Ole Guy, Jethro Bodine (Maximilian Adalbert Baer) was literate, clearly spoken, and put out lots of helpful positive energy.

indigo

February 9th, 2013
10:40 am

Atlanta is filled with people who cannot speak a single grammatically correct sentence.

So, exactly HOW does Atlanta rank so high?

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
10:41 am

Looks like Baer (Jethro Bodine) was also very smart with business: “Baer wrote and produced the drama Macon County Line (1974), in which he played Deputy Reed Morgan. It was the highest-grossing movie per dollar invested at the time. Made for just US$110,000, it earned almost US$25 million at the box office.”

Rick

February 9th, 2013
10:43 am

This is largely a result of the Yankee influx into the Metro. Too bad this influx did not extend throughout the entire state. Most of the outsiders brought degrees with them.

10:10 am

February 9th, 2013
11:00 am

If true, would contrast ironically with recent events at the DeKalb School Board. Any AJC interest in providing a demographic breakdown re the literacy claim?

Didn’t think so.

William Casey

February 9th, 2013
11:15 am

More than the normal nasty bitterness this morning. Think I’ll pass. Have a nice day. : )

Digger

February 9th, 2013
11:17 am

If the researchers couldn’t understand a word Atlanta people were saying, they marked them as ‘literate’. Hence, the lofty ranking.

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
11:53 am

Bitterness? Surely you jest. I think bitter is when powerful lefties turn defensive. In a recent NPR “Marketplace” author interview of an author who wrote a first-person narrative of what conditions are in Detroit and what has happened to his family, the NPR interviewer calls the work “porn” and then has the nerve to use this characterization for the title of the interview. Really incredible. http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/big-book/charlie-leduff-going-home-detroit-and-problems-ruin-porn

hey NPR I think you’ve set the bar high for new frontiers in bitterness. The treatment of this author makes John Boehner look like a compassionate conservative.

Kris

February 9th, 2013
11:53 am

Thats great , but don’t celebrate too loudley as the dim light bulbs in the gold dome might cut funding …..Just sayin

Disgusted in Dekalb

February 9th, 2013
11:57 am

If there are so many literate people in the metro-Atlanta area, why couldn’t we find 9 of them for the Dekalb School Board?

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
12:03 pm

D in Dekalb, they’re all “graduates”of court ordered programs… (a pun)

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
12:09 pm

PS I’ve been hanging out with a lot of crooks lately and have come to see there is a whole subculture of “graduates” from drug court programs, with no less pomp than university, and maybe more meaningful, as there is a stronger connection between the supervising judge and “graduating” person who has righted their crooked ways. Seriously, there is a whole subculture of this using the term “graduate” with great meaning, but it is not from studying academic subjects. It’s a weird thing, too, as the judge gets great satisfaction as “reformer” but the whole proxy of it is completely crazy.

What I am really saying is, in Dekalb County, being an ex-crook seems to be a more solid credential for office than having a management degree from a business or public affairs school. Maybe if you want to succeed in Georgia education politics, go buy a bunch of ‘blow and have a couple of car wrecks and go through the court system and then you’ll be credible and fit for office and connected.

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
12:11 pm

They should offer this as final courses in university study. Worldliness, Section EDU-9900.

Fred ™

February 9th, 2013
12:39 pm

Wow, the jackassery level is high today in the comment section.

FlaTony

February 9th, 2013
12:39 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how a positive report about Georgia can be twisted into something evil and sinister by some weak-minded people.

Prof

February 9th, 2013
12:53 pm

All of those cities have nationally renowned universities and/or colleges, and some have several. Atlanta has Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Spelman College, and Morehouse College. It’s pretty obvious why these cities would be rated high in literacy.

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
1:03 pm

My friend in Wisconsin emailed that he finally figured out how his neighbor’s new Ford SUV never has any snow on it and they never have to clean it off. He said they leave it idling all day with the heat on.

Maybe Atlanta is not so bad, i.e. the rest of country is not exactly the paragon of literacy. I had a lawyer in West Texas want me to be a school teacher there, said they were having trouble getting their kids into the best colleges. Shortly after I learned that the local school board was making funny buy/sell land deals with their direct friends. Maybe the West Texas lawyer should fix that first. I’m tired of corrupted school districts, bullying principals, money-schemes, mobile director-elites and retirees rehired as consultants by the same place they retired from (i.e. double pay) and interconnected principal-gangs working the system. If you think about it, if someone will rob you on the sidewalk for the contents of your purse/ wallet, what are some local persons willing to do for a local $100k year job that is insulated from the market economy?

Private Citizen

February 9th, 2013
1:05 pm

Prof, You left out Agnes Scott, Kennesaw State, Oglethorpe, and Emory. http://www.oglethorpe.edu/

ELA teacher

February 9th, 2013
1:06 pm

All of the citir

Tice

February 9th, 2013
1:15 pm

Yeah! AAAANNNNNDDDD… we’re 5th in violent crime, YAHOOOOO! (What are we reading?)

Tallcarl

February 9th, 2013
2:16 pm

Thank you Maureen for you always interesting articles as a teacher I love to hear the heartbeat of what is happening in the U.S.A. I live in Barranquilla, Colombia and long ago gave up teaching in public schools.
I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
Thomas Paine

bldvl89

February 9th, 2013
3:07 pm

Not surprising Atlanta is ranked top 10 in literacy even though its public school systems are atrocious – it’s because Atlanta, like many other major metropolitan cities, is inhabited by a significant number of transplants from other places who bring their education/literacy here. I grew up in Va, went to college in NC, but moved here many years ago for the economic opportunities and low cost of living Atlanta – the biggest city in the southeast – affords.

Interesting Observation

February 9th, 2013
3:20 pm

Just Sayin

February 9th, 2013
10:02 am

Perhaps they’re tired of preaching to the choir over at amren.com?

oldtimer

February 9th, 2013
4:12 pm

Sorry..I question the researdh…

Ralph-43

February 9th, 2013
4:16 pm

It is nice to think of Atlanta as literate and I do think there is a well-versed, reading population, which extends to many of the suburbs where there seems to be a strong interest in popular fiction as well as print media. The bothersome item in this survey is the low ranking of San Francisco and New York. Having lived in both those cities, I know there is a well educated, well informed public. Therefore, I think one clinker in the survey is the acknowledgement of the involution of print media. New York and San Francisco may be more wired and rarely subscribing to the newspaper but reading on-line. Also, their mass transit is more frequently relied on and the smart phone is ubiquitous. There are few strap hangers still trying to get through the hard-copy morning paper. That may be the bias in the reported data.

Chuck

February 9th, 2013
4:32 pm

Indigo, please venture beyond your own circle of contacts.

HatingGeorgia

February 9th, 2013
5:43 pm

Atlanta, literate? No. This is one of the worst state’s I’ve ever lived in, can’t wait to leave. Way too many morons & idiots.

Shar

February 9th, 2013
5:57 pm

I happened to spend part of today with the Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta (LVA), which is drowning in demand for tutors and teachers of basic literacy (they also provide classes and tutoring in ESL and citizenship). According to their handouts, 28% of Atlanta citizens cannot read at the fifth grade level or above. Add in the huge influx of immigrants who cannot speak English or even read in their own languages and it would appear that we join most of the other urban areas in America in having a substantial population that cannot read. LVA claimed that there has not been what they termed “serious research into literacy in America” since 2002; apparently Dr. Miller’s work does not impress them as “serious”,

However, there’s lots of opportunity to help. If lack of literacy, regardless of the actual percentage, is of concern to you, call LVA and offer your skills.

bootney farnsworth

February 9th, 2013
6:07 pm

considering the amount of immigration (legal and illegal), the amount of students in remedial english, and that APS, DCSS, and Clayton are in varying levels of free fall

I’m a bit suspicious of the finding. how on earth did they create the perimeters?

bootney farnsworth

February 9th, 2013
6:24 pm

you’ve got to be kidding

ummm

February 9th, 2013
7:51 pm

bootney – it’s “You have to be kidding.” “You have got” is improper structure.
Robert – that should have been “people’s reading…”

I won’t get the rest of you illiterate naysayers together right now.