It's me, your average 18-29 year old white female college graduate in a suburban/urban setting with a household income that's pretty tiny. Why do I mention this? Because I saw this infographic of "who in America is reading--and how". And that's what I want to talk about today.
To be clear, I'm not very good at math or interpreting surveys (or studies, but I feel like this one is more of a survey in nature) or anything like that, so I could be reading this all wrong. If you are an expert, please correct me in the comments! This is just what I'm seeing out of this infographic.
First of all, I think the standards for this are pretty low which is a good/bad thing--the only require you to have read 1 book (Yes, that's right ONE) in the last year to qualify for this study. I think that's great because sometimes people don't have time to read a lot of books and sometimes people are slow readers and frankly, it's good that people are reading anything at all. But the bad part of this is I wonder how many of these people would qualify themselves as reader. And what about people who read alternative types of books? What about avid readers of comics or graphic novels? Did they include those people in this study because the directions say a book and lots of people don't think of those categories as books. Or what about people who read technical manuals or newspapers? Do those count?
Anyway. That's not even part of the survey results. That was just my mind going off line. The first survey question is male or female (which hey, what about people who prefer to go by another gender? That's not very inclusive, Survey People.). This survey tells us that women are statistically 13% more likely to have read a book than a male. So here's my question. The study looked at people ages 18+, don't you think that by the time people reach that age, society has made an impact? We are constantly taught growing up that boys are supposed to play. They need to be outside. They should be playing football or soccer or running wild around the neighborhood. Girls should be quiet. You should hardly even know that you had a daughter. In my experience, it's far more likely for girls to read than boys because girls are TOLD that they are SUPPOSED to read. Is it really too much to expect that childhood behaviors would follow us into adulthood?
Race/Ethnicity only has three categories which well done again Survey People for erasing huge chunks of people from existence, but anyway, their results say that of the three categories (Black, White and Hispanic) Black people are most likely to be reading, White people are somewhere in the middle and Hispanic people are the least likely to read. I can't really say a lot about race because I'm white. I don't know how it feels or what it's like to be a different ethnicity. But I do think there's probably a lot of factors that go into this statistic. Probably it's easier for white people to do something else with their time (statistically speaking white people make more money--maybe they're out drinking it away or using it to go on a vacation or something, I don't know.) Maybe Hispanic people are least likely to read because they're working a lot or trying to connect with their families. I just want to think beyond this survey as simple numbers. There's a lot more at play than that.
The Age group statistics say that my age group (18-29) is most likely to have read a book in the past year. Duh. Quite a bit of that group is going to be college students. Almost every student has to read at least one book for college. Like that's pretty hard to escape. And even for those out of college or who chose not to go to college, we're an age group that works jobs--we don't usually have "careers" at this point. We have a lot of free time, and I would suspect that a lot of us have books that we are interested in. It also makes sense that the next age group who reads a lot is ages 50-64. Many people are hitting retirement age, they're getting older. They're thinking, hey, why didn't I ever read The Bluest Eye or War and Peace? What stopped me? I better get on that. Middle age people are the least likely to be reading, maybe because they're having a family? They're getting their careers rolling and making sure everything's trucking along? That's what I would think anyway.
The next statistic made me kind of sad. Of the three education levels (high school grads, some college, and college grads) college graduates are the most likely to be reading. On the one hand, that makes sense. We usually have better paying jobs that we don't have to spend as much time at. We don't have to have more than one job. But I think you can learn a lot from reading. And I think that people from every formal education level can benefit from learning more. Reading to me isn't about finding other people like me. It's about finding people who are different than me but who I can empathize with.
Household income was the only bracket where I was in the lowest percentile. And it didn't surprise me at all. You're telling me that people who make less than 30K a year read less than people who make 50K to 74,999 do?? WHAT? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? OH wait. You mean because for the most part people who make that money are working long hours working minimum wage and often don't want to do anything but sleep when they get home? Wow. What a concept.
I would really like to see TV watching statistics next to this reading statistics for the community type field. Because I have the suspicion that suburbanites would rank high there. The Suburbs are really for the middle class. They're for families. Urban people tend to gravitate to either poverty or richness. And I would say that holds true to rural areas as well. It's just that rural people are generally also farmers and have a lot of shit to do.
Basically I thought this survey was too one-dimensional to really take a look at America's reading habits. I don't think it was inclusive enough, and I don't think it matters. In the end, what I want is to just have people read. If I can get one person to pick up a book because of this blog, I will be ecstatic. I just want people to read.