I'm not really a hometown booster, and I've bitched about Boston enough to be told "Then why don't you leave?" many times. But my parochial pride has been stirred several times in the past few days by one thing that drives me battier than the Hub's famous rudeness: Sloppy statistics.
Here are five examples of knocks (or faint praise) against Boston, Massachusetts, and the Northeast that don't stand up to scrutiny.
As reported in USA Today, Boston is only the 12th "most literate city" in America, behind St. Louis and Cincinnati.
The complete survey by Central Connecticut University is here. Note that Boston ranks 3rd, behind only New York and Washington, in the number of periodicals published here. We're 4th in newspaper circulation. (My hunch is that New York, Los Angeles, and many Western cities rank poorly in this category because of the large number of people who don't speak English as their primary language.) And we're 5th in "Internet resources."
So why aren't we in the Top 10 overall? Mostly because Boston ranks a terrible 61st in bookstores per 10,000 people; New York City is tied for 65th. I suspect that this has more to do with the high cost of real estate than with locals' reading habits. There aren't many places in Boston or Manhattan where you can pay for a storefront in a busy retail district by selling used books (as opposed to clothes, wine, jewelry, or other easily marked-up items). Second-place St. Louis has a mystery bookstore; we'd probably still have one on Newbury Street rather than just online if tourists stopped coming to that trendy address.
Also, bookstores in Boston and New York are probably bigger, if less numerous, befitting a geographically compact metropolis. And the survey is apparently limited to the city proper, which means it doesn't count bookstores in Cambridge -- where many Bostonians shop.