Do wealthy cities have higher Internet literacy?

Knight-Crane Convergence Lab - Flickr - Knight Foundation (2)A recent study by Dr. John Miller at Central Connecticut State University has been getting buzz lately for comparing census poverty data to his study of literacy rates in 75 metro areas. As reported in The Atlantic Cities, he found no correlation:

Using US Census data for income in the relevant cities, I learned that wealthier cites are no more likely to rank highly in literacy than poorer cities. For example, Cleveland ranks second lowest for median family income (among the AMLC cities) and yet, thanks to its great library system (ranked #1 in the AMLC) and strong newspaper (#6) and magazine (#5) circulations, it is ranked 13th most literate in the survey.  On the other hand, Anchorage, AK is ranked 5th in median family income and only 61st in literacy.

Other notable cities that exemplify this finding are St. Louis, which ranks 70th in median family income but #8 in literacy; Henderson, NV (#7 in wealth and #53 in literacy), San Diego (#8 in wealth and #33.5 in literacy. While poverty has a strong impact on educational attainment, its impact on literacy is much weaker.

I noticed that one of Dr. Miller’s criteria for evaluating a city’s literacy was Internet Resources. This made me wonder: Does the same trend hold true for Internet resources? Is wealth irrelevant to Internet readership? I could only find the Internet-readership data for 2010 on his website, so I looked at that.

First, I looked at the two cities Miller mentions as outperforming their poverty level, Cleveland and St. Louis: Cleveland ranks 13 overall but 36 in Internet Resources, and St. Louis ranks 11 overall but 38 in Internet Resources. This data seems to support a stronger correlation between Internet literacy and wealth than overall literacy and wealth.

But what about the cities he mentions as underperforming in literacy compared to their wealth? Anchorage ranks 49 overall (in 2010) but 66.5 in Internet Resources, and Henderson ranks 64 overall but 66.5 in Internet Resources. Even these wealthy cities had worse Internet literacy than overall literacy, so it seems to me that wealth is not the driving factor in Internet literacy either. San Diego, however, the third wealthy city he mentions, ranks 10 in Internet Resources and 33.5 overall.

Here are the top 14 cities in terms of Internet Resources (14, so I could include Chicago):

1 Washington, DC 2
2 Austin, TX 16
3 Seattle, WA 1
4 Boston, MA 8
6 San Francisco, CA 12
6 Oakland, CA 35
6 San Jose, CA 56
8 New York City, NY 29
9 Atlanta, GA 5
10 San Diego, CA 33.5
11 Philadelphia, PA 32
12 Kansas City, MO 14
13.5 Portland, OR 6
13.5 Chicago, IL 30


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *