Living in America's Most Literate Cities

A plethora of books

Bookworms Take Note

Do you love to read? So do millions of Americans - especially in the country's most literate cities (scroll down to learn more about the top 10). Each year Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), surveys all U.S. cities with a population over 250,000, using the following key indicators of literacy to determine which are the most literate:

  • Newspaper circulation
  • Number of bookstores
  • Library resources
  • Periodical publishing resources
  • Educational attainment
  • Internet resources

This year Miller also looked at data from other quality of life indicators and found that highly literate cities tend to rank well in other areas. The country's 10 most literate cities are typically safer, more walk-able, healthier and (bachelors beware!) have very active singles' scenes. However, he did note that being literate does not make a city immune to the current economic recession - of all the top 10, only Washington D.C. has relatively low unemployment.

A student reads in the city

Location, Location, Location

For many prospective students, location is a crucial factor when choosing the right college or university. Being in a highly literate city can offer a lot of benefits both during and after your tenure in school, from having access to a wide variety of research resources to being surrounded by other scholarly types. I've cross-referenced the 10 most literate cities for 2009 with the American Institute for Economic Research's (AIER) 2009-2010 College Destinations Index to find out how these cities stack up for students. The AIER divided their rankings into major metropolitan areas (population greater than 2.5 million), mid-sized metros (1-2.5 million residents) and small cities (250,000-1 million residents). They then ranked the cities on the following factors in three major categories:

  1. Academic Environment: Student concentration, student diversity, research capacity and degree attainment.
  2. Quality of Life: Arts and leisure, city accessibility, creative class and cost of living.
  3. Professional Opportunity: Earning potential, entrepreneurial activity, unemployment rate and brain gain or drain.

Keep reading to learn more about the top 10 most literate cities and their best local schools.

Seattle, WA

1. Seattle, Washington

Seattle has been in the number one or number two slot of the America's Most Literate Cities rankings for years, and it's no surprise with all those rainy days and great coffee shops. The AIER ranked Seattle number five out of 15 for the best major metro cities for students, with especially high scores in Quality of Life and Professional Opportunity. According to U.S. News & World Report, Seattle's top private school is Seattle University, a highly ranked Jesuit school that offers a full range of religious and non-sectarian study. Their most famous college is the University of Washington, a sprawling research university with many prestigious graduate and undergrad programs and ranked among the Best Colleges in the West by The Princeton Review.

District of Columbia

2. Washington, D.C.

Our nation's capital came in at an impressive second place in the most literate cities list, and an equally impressive fourth place among major metro areas in the top college destinations list. They did best in Academic Environment and Professional Opportunities. D.C.'s highly prestigious Georgetown University placed very well in both U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review's rankings - and Washington D.C. is #8 in The Princeton Review's ranking of Best College Towns in the country.

Minneapolis, MN

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis usually trades places with Seattle for the number one or number two spot, but this year they were deposed to number three by D.C. - not that number three's a bad spot to be in! Minneapolis-St. Paul, also known as the Twin Cities, came in at number nine among major metro areas in the AIER's rankings, doing best in Quality of Life and Professional Opportunity. The Twin Cities boast two highly-ranked, top tier schools: Northwestern College and the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.

Pittsburgh, PA

4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Representing the venerable Northeast is Pittsburgh, once known as the City of Steel, and now better known for education, technology, robotics - and reading. They came in at number seven out of 20 in AIER's mid-size metro area rankings, doing best in Academic Environment and Quality of Life. They also boast two excellent top-tier universities: the public University of Pittsburgh and the private Carnegie Mellon University.

Atlanta, GA

5. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. The headquarters of several huge companies, including Coca-Cola, AT&T and Delta Airlines, this Southern Belle is also a major business center. Atlanta came in at the bottom of AIER's top major metro college destinations - but they still ranked #15 amongst all the big cities in the U.S., with solid scores in Quality of Life and Professional Opportunity. The best school in Atlanta is Emory University, a top-tier school that's well ranked by both U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review.

Portland, OR

6. Portland, Oregon

Seattle's neighbor to the south is not only literary, it's also known as the most environmentally friendly city in the country - and the second 'greenest' city in the world! Portland ranks #9 among mid-sized cities in the AIER rankings, doing best in Academic Environment and Quality of Life. Environmentally-minded students will love the private Lewis & Clark College. The school's undergraduate program features green classrooms and a focus on global citizenry, and the law school has one of the nation's premier environmental law programs. Other popular colleges in the area include the acclaimed private liberal arts school Reed College on the east side and the populous public Portland State University in the heart of downtown.

St. Paul, MN

7. St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Paul forms the other half of the 'Twin Cities' and only lags a little bit behind its 'better half' (Minneapolis) in literary-ness. Although it's smaller than Minneapolis, St. Paul is the hub of Minnesota's political activity. However, students who are unsure where to go for school don't have to worry - they're so close together that AIER ranks them as one place, and they share their best schools. Just scroll back up to #3 to see the top colleges in the Twin Cities.

Boston, MA

8. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., and it is also one of the biggest centers in the country for education and medicine. It's no surprise that Boston is all the way up at #3 in the AIER's ranking of large cities - the greater Boston area includes Cambridge, home to such legendary schools as the Ivy league Harvard University and the super-prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Students who are interested in the Boston area but looking for something a little different than Harvard or MIT should check out the larger private research university, Boston U.

Cincinnati, OH

9. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is the oldest in the Midwest, and while it continues to represent America's heartland well in literacy, it didn't even place on the AIER's list of the top college destinations. However, it does feature two great schools: The top-tier Xavier University, a Jesuit school ranked #3 in the country by U.S. News and World Report, and the larger public University of Cincinnati, home of the Bearcats.

Denver, CO

10. Denver, Colorado

Denver, nicknamed the 'Mile-High City,' sits at the foothills of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Students looking for a little elevation will be elated to learn that Denver is the #5 college destination among mid-sized cities according to the AIER, doing best in Academic Environment and Quality of Life. Denver is home to two top-tier schools: the Jesuit Regis University and the private, nonsectarian University of Denver.

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