A Nation of Readers?: Why to Get Your Favorite Man a Book for His Birthday

In January, the National Endowment for the arts published the results of the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Some fascinating stuff on reading for pleasure (that is, books not required for school or work) by U.S. adults.  I found these highlights interesting:

  • 54.6% of U.S. adults read a book not required for school or work in 2012; this is about the same as in 2008, but a slight decline from 2002 (when figure was 56.6%).
  • That compares favorably to the percentage of U.S. adults who went to a movie that year: 59.4%.
  • When you narrow the reading to literature (fiction, plays, poetry), 47% of U.S. adults read something; that’s about the same as 2002, but down from 2008 (50.2%).
  • Overall, older folks read more than younger. Reading literature is more popular with folks 18-34 than 35-54, though it seems we pick up the novels again at the age of 65, once we’re retired.
  • In general, the higher your family’s annual income, the more likely you are to have read a book in 2012–though 56.8% of people in families with an annual income of $50-75K read a book, whereas only 51.8% of people in families earning $75-100K did.
  • The more schooling you’ve received, the more likely you are to be a reader. Considering the highest level of education, 72.5% of college graduates read a book for pleasure last year, whereas only 41.2% of high school graduates did.
  • Still, that’s more than the percentage of high school graduates who went to a live pop or rock concert, 37.8%.
  • New England is the region where people are most likely to have read literature in 2012, with a rate of 51.8%. (We’re also the region most likely to have participated in exercise sports and to garden. On the other hand, we’re the region least likely to enjoy hymns, gospel, or choir music.)
  • And the gap between women and men persists.  In 2008, 58% of women but only 41.9% of men had read a work of literature in the past year.  In 2012, those rate fell to 56.1% for women and 37% for men.

Seriously, get your favorite guy a book.

The full report and a high-level summary can be downloaded here:

http://arts.gov/publications/decade-arts-engagement-findings-survey-public-participation-arts-2002-2012

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