In examining the most literate cities, there does not seem to be a strong regional influence. The "top ten" does include four western cities (Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, and Portland), but Washington and Pittsburgh represent the East, Louisville and Atlanta the South, and Cincinnati and Minneapolis the Midwest. On the other hand, the "bottom ten" has a distinct "sun-belt" appearance with Detroit being the only "industrial" city from the East or Midwest. California has four of the "bottom ten" cities, Texas has three, and Florida and Tennessee one each. This may well be associated with the high number of recent immigrants and lower incomes of individuals in these states.
The number of factors calculated as a ratio to size of the population seems to have had a negative effect on very large cities. None of the eight cities with populations over 1,000,000 were in the top 50% of the rankings. This population disadvantage seems to diminish or disappear for cities under 1,000,000. There are large and small cities in the "top ten," e.g. San Francisco and Louisville, and in the "bottom ten," e.g. Los Angeles and Corpus Christi.
There are some interesting results when looking at the cities that are often considered more stereotypically literate. For example, Boston and New York did not fare as well as might be expected with their rankings of 13 and 48. Certainly they scored quite well on some factors. New York City was clearly first in the number of periodicals published, but was below the median on percentage of the population who are high school graduates. Even with high total number of newspapers circulated, the circulation per person was well below the median. Boston was first in library holdings per person, and in the "top ten" in Sunday and weekday newspaper circulation, but below the median on all three of the retail booksellers per person variables and the percentage of the population who are high school graduates. In short, these cities are very strong on a few factors causing them to be viewed as centers of culture and literacy, but they have large numbers of people apparently not buying newspapers and books, not checking out library materials, or graduating from high school.
There are also some interesting counter examples of cities not stereotypically considered as bastions of literacy that did quite well on at least a few factors. Examples include: Newark, NJ, on newspaper circulation per person; Las Vegas, NV, and Buffalo, NY, on library circulation, and library branches per person; and Miami, FL, on retail bookstores per person.
In summary, the results of this study must be taken in total. A certain anomaly may positively or adversely affect a single variable, but when the thirteen variables are combined to form five factors and ultimately a single ranking, those idiosyncrasies tend to equalize themselves. Insofar as availability of booksellers, resources of libraries, educational attainment level of the population, periodicals published, and paid newspaper circulations are indicators of literacy, these are America's most and least literate cities.