From a study of reading habits in American cities (pop. 250,000 or more):
The release of the 2007 America’s Most Literate Cities survey coincides with renewed widespread interest in reading and literacy. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently published a “disturbing story” indicating that, at all levels, Americans are reading less and reading less well, and that this behavior correlates with declining measures of the health of our society. . . .
One of the most disturbing trends is that while Americans are becoming more and more educated in terms of their time spent in school and their education level accomplished, they are decreasing in terms of literate behaviors. This is particularly obvious in our lack of support of bookstores and the constantly diminishing circulation of newspapers. Forty-three of the 59 cities studied have a higher percentage of high school graduates than they did five years ago, and 46 of the cities have a higher percentage of college graduates, so clearly the trend across the country is for people to stay in school longer and achieve a higher grade level of accomplishment. Nevertheless, every city in the study declined in Sunday newspaper circulation save one — St. Paul, Minnesota — and only four — Cleveland, Indianapolis, Louisville, and St. Paul — had consistent increases in weekday circulation. So while Americans are becoming more and more “educated,” they are reading newspapers less.
We are also supporting local bookstores far less often. Not a single city in our survey has more independent bookstores now than five years ago. Fifty-seven out of 60 cities reported fewer retail booksellers in 2007 than in 2003; in several, the number of booksellers per capita dropped by half of what was reported in 2003. At the macro level, the market does seem to reflect the “alarming” story that the NEA reports.
America's Most Literate Cities 2007 (Central Connecticut State University)
NEA Announces New Reading Study (NEA press release)
To Read or Not to Read (NEA report, .pdf download)