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San Antonio Fifth Least Literate City in US

February 22, 2014
Jessica Gonzales at a Twig Book Shop reading last December. Credit: Nelly Rosario

Sheila Maldonado at a Twig Book Shop reading last December. Credit: Nelly Rosario

According to an annual study, San Antonio ranked among the five least literate cities in the country. The silver lining? We’re only the third least literate city in Texas—El Paso and Corpus Christi both scored lower than us.

Central Connecticut State University ranks cities based on six criteria: bookstores, residents’ education level, newspaper circulation, use of online resources, the library system and periodical publishing resources. Worth noting is that, according to the study’s head Dr. John Miller, “This isn’t about whether or not people can read, it’s about whether they do read.”

However, education and reading often go hand in hand, and San Antonio is below both state and national averages in terms of the percentage of residents who have a high school degree and those who hold a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, 85.7 percent of U.S. residents attained a high school degree between 2008-2012 according to Census data, while about 80 percent of San Antonians did. For college degrees, nearly a third of U.S. residents have them, while less than a quarter of San Antonians do.

Other metrics which hit SA hardest was our very low amount of book stores per 10,000 residents, which is the second lowest in the nation. Also, our weekday newspaper circulation is 11th lowest in the nation, with only 9.4 of every 100 residents picking up a daily paper.

While the report noted San Antonio has a larger population of library users than many cities in the nation, it also speculated that the libraries are understaffed.

 CORRECTION 2:45 p.m. Sun, Feb 23: We previously misidentified the woman reading in the photo. We regret the error.




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  • LivingInSA

    No surprise. People can’t read the black and white signs along the roads and highways either.

  • NRosario

    PLEASE CORRECT: The writer in the photograph is not Jessica Gonzalez–it’s poet Sheila Maldonado, reading from “one-bedroom solo”

  • Callie Enlow

    Sorry about that, we’ve made the correction.

  • S.A.26yrold

    I graduated from high school in San Antonio and did not go to college. Why would I waste money to get a job that pays less than I make without a degree? No degree and I make over 30 dollars per hour. I don’t want to be in debt for a piece of paper.

  • SMaldonado

    Thank you for correcting. This was from a reading May 31st, 2013 at Twig, not December.

  • Libros

    Major holes in their measurements. They used readership for the city’s daily paper (Express-News), and in many cities that ignores the substantial circulation of Spanish-language papers (La Prensa). They did not count college bookstores. They did not count ACTUAL book purchases, the majority of which are online (paper and e-book), not in-person. They didn’t even survey people about how much time they spend reading.

    This is a relatively minor study: not much time or money spent on the research, and it comes from a university that focuses on undergraduate education — not research. I’m not saying CCSU shouldn’t do this study, I’m saying their tenuous results have been blown out of proportion in the media.
    If those results lead to more support for literacy programs, then no harm no foul. But if those results are used to vilify teachers or dismantle public schools…