We’re the most… whatever

One thing I was taught by an old MPR news director back in the day was: Minnesotans love surveys that show Minnesota in a good light. And now, I love them, too.

We really should begin to make a good list of the “most whatever” in which Minnesota — or Minnesota cities — rank high. A few weeks ago it was determined we are the 6th most happy, although it’s still unclear what South Dakota is allfired giddy about.

This week we learned we’re #5 in economic impact of hunting and fishing. And our relative contentment at being almost first was displayed when we were named the second most healthy state.

Now, according to Central Connecticut State University, which if nothing else knows when to issue a news release about its obscure school, Minneapolis is the most literate city in America. And St. Paul is 3rd, just behind Seattle.


“This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources,” according to an announcement on the school’s Web site. The methodology shows such factors as newspaper circulation figures, as well as Intel’s list of wireless cities.

Though we love surveys like this and we agree the library systems here are outstanding, our literacy fluency requires us to point out that it has a high lame factor. The number of bookstores might be impressive in these parts, compared t o El Paso, but we have to acknowledge that a good standard of measuring literacy would be some sort of assessment of the number of people here who can actually… read.

The survey attempts to do that by comparing the number of people with 8th grade, high school, and college educations, which is a nice start. But Minnesota as a whole slipped by .10 percent in high school graduates as a percentage of incoming 9th graders. Colorado, the home of Denver, which trails St. Paul in the literacy rankings, increased its high school graduation rates by 2.3% over the same period.

  • bsimion

    Bob notes

    “The number of bookstores might be impressive in these parts, compared t o El Paso, but we have to acknowledge that a good standard of measuring literacy would be some sort of assessment of the number of people here who can actually… read.”

    While your point is valid, in terms of pointing out that their data doesn’t measure literal literacy, their data is interesting in that it attempts to measure how many people bother to use the skill.

  • Bob Collins

    Yes and no, Brian. But consider this: Newspaper subscriptions are a factor here. So Minneapolis, being the home of the most popular newspaper, gets a boost over St. Paul. But the Strib distribution isn’t geographically limited.

    The Pioneer Press, on the other hand, does not have a distribution system for Minneapolis. So the poor folks of St. Paul get a big red checkmark in comparison.

    Likewise, Minneapolis gets credit because the Star Tribune’s Web site is the area’s dominant Web site. But how do we know St. Paulites aren’t going there, too?

    And why should only a NEWSPAPER’S Web site be calculated here.

    Why I’ve heard that people who listen to public radio — and even go to, oh I don’t know, a Public Radio Web site — tend to be more literate than the usual suspects.

    Imagine the difference if the survey included membership in the local Public Radio station. St. Paul would get credit for all of MPR’s members and Minneapolis would get nothing. Hardly fair, although I highly approve of the methodology.

    I demand a recount!

  • bsimon

    Perhaps, rather than pitting St Paul v Minneapolis, the numbers should be combined/averaged…