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Quick and Dirty

More Literate than Akron

By Erin Sullivan | Posted 8/18/2004

It’s not unusual for Baltimoreans to mock one of the city’s well-known slogans, “The City That Reads.” (The City That Breeds, The City That Bleeds, The City That Reads . . . at a Third Grade Level, etc.) But a recent study of 79 U.S. cities released by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater rates Baltimore as the 25th most literate city examined by researchers. The study places Baltimore below Minneapolis and Seattle (the top two most literate cities in the nation), and Cleveland. But Baltimore, surprisingly, is rated as being more literate than New York City (No. 49), New Orleans (No. 43), and Los Angeles (No. 68).

The study ranked the cities based on their scores in a series of categories, including education, publications, newspapers, libraries, and booksellers. Despite the fact that Baltimore rated dismally in its education ranking (No. 72), the city fared surprisingly well in the bookstore category (No. 20), which ranks cities based on the number of new and used booksellers its population supports; the publications category (No. 15), which measures the number of magazines and journals distributed in the city; and newspaper circulation (No. 22). Baltimore was solidly in the middle of the pack in the libraries category (No. 37).

So does that mean Baltimore really does deserve the title of The City That Reads? The publishers of the study are noncommittal: “Whether these quality of life analyses are ‘accurate’ is not so much a point of fact as it is interpretation and operational definition,” reads a disclaimer in the overview of the study. “These five ranked factors combine 22 different variables that form the operational definition of literacy.”

The Literate Cities 2004 study can be viewed HERE.

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