NEA Survey Finds Decline in Adult Reading

A new survey by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) tracking the impact of Covid-19 on adult reading habits, along with other forms of "arts participation," found that the percentage of adults who reported reading books declined both in 2022 and over the last decade. The findings, oddly, are in stark contrast to the book sales numbers posted during 2020 and 2021.

This year's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), administered by the NEA every five years since 1982, found that:

  • In 2022, 53% of U.S. adults read literature and/or books of some kind (compared to 57.1% in 2017).
  • Data indicate a sharp decline in reading over the last decade. The percent of U.S. adults who read at least one book (in print or electronically) in 2022 was 48.5, 6.1 percentage points lower than in 2012.
  • The percent of U.S. adults who read literature—novels or short stories, poetry, and plays—was lower in 2022 than in 2017. In particular, the percent of U.S. adults who read novels or short stories declined at a 17% rate, from 45.2 percent in 2012 to 37.6 percent in 2022—the lowest share on record with the survey.
  • The percent of U.S. adults who read poetry dropped to 9.2% in 2022 from 11.7% in 2017, but remained above the 2012 level of 6.7%. A new survey question for 2022 asked about poetry listening, with 4.8% of adults (11.8 million) reporting having listened to poetry via broadcasts, recordings, or web streaming. 
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