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View Full Version : Reading in America (for adults) Statistics Confusion



Avatar_fan
05-25-2014, 01:05 AM
So I wanted to know about reading statistics in America, and the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/21/overall-book-readership-stable-but-e-books-becoming-more-popular/) found readership stable with 76% of Americans (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/#footnote4) reading at least one book with the mean average of 5 books a year. 24% of Americans did not read a book in 2013. There is a subset of the population who read way more than average so they had to smoothed out to not affect the average.

That's all well and good and I'd like to stress this is for adults 18 and over but I wanted to see the percentage of fiction readers in America as well. There, I found some dueling statistics.

The National Endowment for the Arts (http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/highlights-from-2012-SPPA.pdf) found 55% reading for pleasure with 45% reading novels/short stories for fun. If you dig down deeper in that number, they had 58% reading both fiction and nonfiction, 23% reading just fiction, and 19% reading just nonfiction.

In a Huffington Post/Yougov poll (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/07/american-read-book-poll_n_4045937.html), however, they found 59% (https://today.yougov.com/news/2013/09/30/poll-results-reading/) having read a fiction book.



According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll asking 1,000 U.S. adults about their reading habits, 41 percent of respondents had not read a fiction book in the past year; 42 percent had not read a nonfiction book.

The main difference is the NEA poll only dealt with readers who read for pleasure while the YouGov poll asked whether or not you read a fictional book regardless of reason such as work or school.

Is the work/school reason enough to make up for a 14% difference between the two studies? The NEA study had 45% reading novels for fun while YouGov had 59% reading fictional books as a whole, which could include comic books/graphic novels. The YouGov poll found 58% read nonfiction books with 72% of American adults reading at least one book in 2013.

College students could have novels as required reading but are there enough 18-22 year olds and to a lesser extent those in post graduate school to make up the difference between those two studies? I don't think companies require that much fiction reading at all.

Any thoughts? Also, feel free to add any other statistics to add to the conversation.

tricksterpython
05-25-2014, 01:15 AM
The percentage of people in America with at least a bachelors degree is somewhere around 30%. Considering a lot more people than that go to college but don't graduate, and the many many people I talked to in college who do not read for fun, I would say it's possible the difference is due to that.

Avatar_fan
05-25-2014, 04:10 AM
Hmmm, I don't know. Those already graduated or who did not get to graduate are part of the regular population. I'm just wondering if there are enough college students out there as a percentage of the population to move 14% between the two figures.

I checked Pew's numbers as well but they don't differentiate between fiction and nonfiction among the 76% of adults. They did split (http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2014/01/PIP_E-reading_011614.pdf) that number further so:


None – 23%
1 book – 5%
2-3 books – 14%
4-5 books – 12%
6-10 books – 17%
11-20 books – 13%
More than 20 books – 15%
Don’t Know – 2%

Mean (including those who answered “none”) – 12 books
Median – 5

I have a hunch that those who read just 1 book could be those who read the Bible.

Roxxsmom
05-25-2014, 05:07 AM
The data do suggest that of the people who do read, a high percentage of them tend to read a decent amount, several books a year or more. It seems like there's a rich getting richer thing going on with reading, which explains what I see with my college students as well. The bimodal distribution with regards to student performance in classes is something I've been noticing more and more over the years. I've noticed more and more students with very poor reading comprehension skills, and I'd hazard that they're people who probably fall into the group that has never and still doesn't read much or at all outside of school.




I have a hunch that those who read just 1 book could be those who read the Bible.

Possibly, though the Bible really is a lot of smaller books packaged together. Do these people read the whole Bible in its entirety every year?

That leads to another question re self reporting. If I read some of a book but not all of it, do I count that as a book read or not read on a survey? I generally only count a book I've finished. If I didn't, that would inflate my number of read books tremendously (I usually have 2-3 books going at a time, and I start a lot of books and put them down, never to return). And I don't count reference books that I use to look things up as books read either, or else I'd include the dictionary and a lot of writing craft books in my read count each year.

Avatar_fan
05-25-2014, 05:23 PM
@Roxxsmom, the survey question asked if a person has read a book all the way through or part of the way through.

Pew has different numbers as well that will add to the survey confusion. Their poll found 80% of Americans 16 and older reading for pleasure (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/). They include books, magazines, newspapers, online, etc.


80% of Americans age 16 and older say they read at least occasionally for pleasure. Some 36% read for pleasure every day or almost every day.

78% say they read at least occasionally to keep up with current events. People read most frequently for this reason: 50% say they do it daily or almost every day.

74% say they read at least occasionally in order to do research on specific topics that interest them. Some 24% read for this reason daily or almost every day.

56% say they read at least occasionally for work or school. Some 36% read for work or school daily or almost every day.


26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information.

15% cited the pleasures of escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment they got from using their imaginations.

12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.

12% said they enjoyed relaxing while reading and having quiet time.

6% liked the variety of topics they could access via reading and how they could find books that particularly interested them.

4% said they enjoy finding spiritual enrichment through reading and expanding their worldview.

3% said they like being mentally challenged by books.

2% cited the physical properties of books – their feel and smell – as a primary pleasure.

The Pew questionnaire (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/files/2012/04/Topline_for_-e_reading_report_4_surveys.pdf) was incredibly interesting (page 9 on the questionnaire). Apparently, we're reading almost as many books as we were in 1990 with only a 3% increase in nones from 16% to 19% but the median and mean of books read increased from 11 and 6 to 17 and 8 respectively.

Michael Davis
05-26-2014, 02:59 PM
If it's there in your explanation, sorry didn't see it, but a poll to be accurate must be representative of the populace they're analyzing. The US is made of different sets of people backgrounds and that diversity will greatly affect reading rates. Gender, political slant, race, religion, education, even region influences our behavior and choices. Question is, how representative of the true populace is their small sample. Probably not much given the variance across their numbers.

Roxxsmom
05-27-2014, 01:05 AM
@Roxxsmom, the survey question asked if a person has read a book all the way through or part of the way through.

Pew has different numbers as well that will add to the survey confusion. Their poll found 80% of Americans 16 and older reading for pleasure (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/). They include books, magazines, newspapers, online, etc.

This is a lot less grim than some of the other surveys I've seen recently, which imply that as few as 25% of Americans ever read for pleasure.



The Pew questionnaire (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/files/2012/04/Topline_for_-e_reading_report_4_surveys.pdf) was incredibly interesting (page 9 on the questionnaire). Apparently, we're reading almost as many books as we were in 1990 with only a 3% increase in nones from 16% to 19% but the median and mean of books read increased from 11 and 6 to 17 and 8 respectively.

I like the pew poles, because they often ask more detailed and specific questions which make it easier to ferret out the differences between subgroups.

I haven't had a chance to examine these numbers, but one characteristic of other pew poles I've seen is that you can break things down by gender, age etc.

Avatar_fan
05-27-2014, 04:59 AM
I like Pew as well. From the same questionnaire, 18% said that a physical or health reason makes it hard for them to read.