Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Young Adults Are Less Likely to Read Books

Now that we're spending a lot more time at home, we're sure to be reading more books. Right? Maybe not. While the overall percentage of Americans aged 18 or older who read a book (not required for school or work) in the past 12 months has changed little over the past decade, significant changes are occurring by age group. Book reading among young and middle-aged adults has declined, while reading has increased among older people.

The 55 percent majority of adults read a book in 2017, according to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The 55 percent includes anyone who read a print, digital, or audio book. The figure was identical in 2012 and nearly identical (54 percent) in 2008. But there have been changes by age group. Take a look...

Percent who read a book in the past year by age

   18 to 34     35 to 64     65-plus  
2017   50.5%   52.5%   56.6%
2012   53.6   54.2   57.2
2008   52.7   56.1   51.2
2002   56.0   59.2   49.4
1992   62.6   63.6   49.6

A big drop in book reading has occurred among younger adults. The percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds who read a book in the past year fell from 63 percent in 1992 to 53 percent in 2008—a 10 percentage point decline during an era when the internet and smartphones became a thing. The decline in book reading is similar, although slightly delayed, among the middle-aged. The opposite trend can be seen among people aged 65 or older, with the percentage who read a book in the past year rising substantially between 2008 and 2012. Why the rise? The highly-educated baby-boom generation began to fill the 65-plus age group, and the college educated are much more likely than those with less education to read books.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, How Do We Read? Let's Count the Ways

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