Nation's Most Literate Cities Survey: St. Louisans Less Educated, But Read More

Categories: Books, Community

Inside the newly-refurbished Central Library.
It's time, once again, for Central Connecticut State University to make its annual ranking of the nation's most literate cities. Why bother? Well, according to Dr. Jack Miller, the study's author, literacy is a sign of a city's cultural vitality.

St. Louis was slightly less vital in 2012 than it was in 2011, slipping in the rankings from eighth to ninth. But most of the data was compiled before the Central Library reopened, in all its post-makeover glory. Next year we'll get 'em!

The most interesting part of the study, though, may have been what it has to say about education and literacy.

See also:
-Yay, We Can Read! St. Louis is the Nation's Eighth Most Literate City
-St. Louis Officially Nation's Ninth Most Literate City
-Book 'Em

In terms of education (measured by percentage of citizens with a high-school diploma and a bachelor's degree), St. Louis ranks 45th out of the 76 cities in the study. The discrepancy between our that and our number-nine literacy ranking is one of the greatest in the entire study.

Why is that? Although the study offers only data, not interpretation, we're going to venture a theory of our own:

We've got a kickass library system, third only to Cleveland and Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Kickass-ness is measured by branches, books available, books checked out and staff members per capita.) Can it be that the library is doing what it's actually supposed to be doing: offering knowledge -- and, OK, entertainment -- to anybody who wants it, regardless of how much education or cash they have? And that St. Louisans actually read because they want to, not because some professor requires it?

It's such a beautiful idea. We so want it to be true.

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"St. Louis was slightly less vital in 2012 than it was in 2011, slipping in the rankings from eighth to ninth." 

It appears our rankings slip was warranted.


Columbia MO is one of the most highly educated municipalities in the US.


This question comes up every year, and I continue to be fascinated by it. I can see it in my own life: an amazingly high, completely disproportionate percentage of my friends started college but never finished it. I hear all the theories, not least of which from them, and they usually boil down to: "life happened." Somebody got sick, somebody got behind, somebody ran low on money, whatever. But here's the thing about the "life happened" explanation: it fails to answer the question of why this doesn't happen in 44 other comparable cities. Life happens there, too; they finish college despite it. So why don't St. Louisans? Lack of peer pressure? Lack of community support? Cultural values? Some missing piece of infrastructure? What?

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