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Minnesota Among Leaders in Adult Literacy and High School Graduation Rates Despite Middling Library Resources

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A new Smart Politics analysis of various education indicators finds that Minnesota ranks at or near the top of key education outputs, despite having only a moderate number of public libraries in the state.

With slightly more than 350 public libraries, the Gopher State ranks just 21st in the nation in terms of libraries per capita, at 1 public library for every 14,623 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2008 population estimates and library data provided by PublicLibraries.com.

Minnesota trails all of its neighbors in the Upper Midwest and great plains region in terms of the number of residents per library in each state: Iowa is third in the nation at 1 library per 5,333 residents, with South Dakota at #4 (5,546), Nebraska at #6 (6,108), North Dakota at #8 (7,128), Kansas at #10 (7,413), and Wisconsin at #15 (13,180).

Vermont (1 library per 3,236 residents) and Maine (4,685) rank 1-2 in the nation with Texas (92,851) and Ohio (62,765) in the bottom two slots.

Despite Minnesota's middling ranking in library resources, the Gopher State is tied with North Dakota and New Hampshire for the highest adult literacy rate in the nation, at 96 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics' National Assessment of Adult Literacy at the U.S. Department of Education.

Minnesota has achieved this #1 status even though a bivariate analysis shows there is significant correlation across the 50 states and District of Columbia between the number of residents per library and the adult literacy rate (-.526, significant at the .01 level). In other words, increases in the number of residents per library in a state are associated with decreases in the level of adult literacy in the state, and vice-versa.

Overall, most states with high literacy rates rank among the nation's leaders in terms of the most libraries per capita. For example, the top six states with the most libraries per capita all rank tied for fourth or better for the highest adult literacy rates in the nation: Vermont, Maine, Iowa, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Nebraska.

Minnesota also ranks among the best states in the nation in terms of high school graduation rates.

The Gopher State's 86.2 percent graduation rate for the freshmen class of 2005-2006 was the fourth highest in the country, behind three regional neighbors: Wisconsin (87.5 percent), Nebraska (87.0 percent), and Iowa (86.9 percent), according to the National Center for Education Statistics' The Condition of Education 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Education.

High school graduation rates are highly correlated to adult literacy rates across the 50 states and District of Columbia (.654, significant at the .001 level).

Of course, while the availability of public libraries undoubtedly plays a role in shaping education outputs, there are many other factors in play (quality of teachers, student-teacher ratios, curriculum, funding, student family unit stability etc.).

Number of Residents Per Public Library by State

State
Residents per library
Library Rank
Graduation rank
Literacy rank
Vermont
3,236
1
8
4
Maine
4,685
2
26
4
Iowa
5,333
3
3
4
South Dakota
5,546
4
6
4
New Hampshire
5,552
5
11
1
Nebraska
6,108
6
2
4
Alaska
6,728
7
43
15
North Dakota
7,128
8
9
1
Wyoming
7,198
9
28
15
Kansas
7,413
10
23
11
Montana
8,958
11
10
15
West Virginia
10,251
12
25
31
Idaho
10,731
13
14
25
Mississippi
12,193
14
47
40
Wisconsin
13,180
15
1
4
Louisiana
13,206
16
50
40
Arkansas
13,469
17
15
36
Massachusetts
13,481
18
18
21
Connecticut
13,571
19
13
15
Rhode Island
14,200
20
21
11
Minnesota
14,623
21
4
1
Indiana
14,727
22
32
11
Michigan
15,020
23
36
11
Missouri
15,197
24
12
4
Alabama
16,187
25
44
38
Illinois
16,249
26
17
31
New Mexico
17,255
27
42
40
Oklahoma
17,681
28
21
28
Oregon
18,048
29
33
21
Colorado
19,998
30
29
21
Washington
20,151
31
34
21
Tennessee
21,579
32
38
31
Virginia
21,762
33
31
28
D.C.
21,920
34
45
47
Kentucky
22,589
35
24
28
Utah
22,615
36
20
15
South Carolina
23,454
37
49
38
North Carolina
24,270
38
37
36
Delaware
24,945
39
26
25
New York
25,020
40
41
50
Hawaii
25,259
41
29
40
Pennsylvania
25,934
42
7
31
Georgia
26,392
43
48
45
Nevada
30,590
44
51
40
Maryland
32,009
45
16
25
Arizona
32,829
46
39
31
California
33,722
47
40
51
Florida
36,878
48
46
49
New Jersey
46,184
49
5
45
Ohio
62,765
50
19
15
Texas
92,851
51
35
47
Data sources: Library data compiled from publiclibraries.com. Population data from U.S. Census Bureau 2008 population estimates. Graduation rate data from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2009 (average 2005-2006 freshman graduation rate). Literacy rate data from National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Adult Literacy (denotes percent lacking basic prose literacy skills, defined as those who scored "below basic" in prose and those who could not be tested due to language barriers).

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3 Comments


  • I'd suggest that libraries per capita is a pretty meaningless number. As an example, in Minnesota, there are roughly 100 library buildings serving about half the state's population (the Twin Cities Metro area) compared to about 250 serving the other half (outstate Minnesota). Does that mean that those in the Metro area have poorer library service than those outstate? I don't think so.

    Also, Minnesota was the first state (and remains one of the few) that mandates library service for _all_ its citizens. In other states, if you live in a rural area with only a city library nearby, you may pay $100+/year if you want a library card. In Minnesota, the county funds your (and everyone else's) library access.

  • DI, I agree. I think you would need more granularity into the types of libraries, access, size and variety of holdings, etc. Perhaps cold weather leads to literacy... just kidding.

  • library is very useful for the advancement of education hopefully fore more libraries are available so many people who preached in order to improve education

  • Leave a comment


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