Adults don’t read much

I ran across an alarming survey of adult reading patterns from PEW. Less than three-fourths of adults (just 72%) said they had read a book in the previous 12 months (the survey was taken in March/April 2015). This is down from 79% in 2011. Men were less likely to have read a book than were women (67% compared to 77%).

Younger adults were most likely to have read a book–80% of those age 18-29 had read a book compared to 71% at age 30-49, 68% of those 50-64, and 69% of those older than 64. Those with more education and higher incomes were more likely to have read.

But even those who read, don’t read much. According to the study the median was 4 books read and the mean is 12. (Unfortunately, the study does not say if the calculation excluded those who had not read any book.) Again, there was a gender difference. The median was 3 books for men, 5 for women, and the mean was 9 for men and 14 for females. Again, those with more education had read more books. But even those who graduated from college had a mean of just 7, although the median was better at 17.

The large difference between the median and the mean shows there was a sizable group who read far more than the mean.

Now, one can argue that there is nothing miraculous about reading that makes someone a better person or even informed. A person who reads the newspaper every day and watches PBS science shows may be better informed than someone who read 20 Star Wars novels in the last year (although I’d argue that reading a book forces the reader to interpret words and so is less passive than watching even good television.)

I’d love to see a survey that compared the views and civic participation of readers versus non-readers (controlling for income and education of course). Unfortunately, this study did not.