Americans Read Fewer Books Last Year, New Survey Results Find

Nicholas Barron

According to new Gallup poll results, Americans read an average of 12.6 books last year.

That’s the lowest number Gallup’s recorded, going back to 1990.

“U.S. adults are reading roughly two or three fewer books per year than they did between 2001 and 2016,” Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones said.

Gallup ran the poll from Dec. 1-16. In it, they asked Americans how many books they read, either entirely or partially, during 2021. The poll covers all book forms, from eBooks and audiobooks to printed books.

Gallup ran similar polls in 2002, 2005, and 2016.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Biggest drop comes from college grads, women

The drop in Americans reading books comes mainly from those who read more than ten books last year.

Twenty-seven percent of Gallup’s poll respondents said they read 11 or more books in 2021. That number is down eight percentage points from 2016.

Meanwhile, Americans are still reading books. The 17% of respondents who read no books last year are on par with numbers from the 2002, 2005, and 2016 surveys.

The most significant drop in books read comes from college graduates.

Between 2002-2016, college graduates in the U.S. said they read an average of 15.2 books a year. In 2021, though, this number dropped 2.6 points to 12.6 books.

Women over 55 represent another significant drop in annual books read. That group reports reading 4.7 fewer books last year than they did between 2002-2016.

Across all ages, women are reading 3.6 fewer books than previously. Men are reading 1.3 fewer books than they did between 2002-2016.

Still, respondents who identify as female average reading 15.7 books per year, compared to 9.5 books read by people who identify as male.

Why are Americans reading fewer books?

Jones said it’s unclear why Americans are reading fewer books, citing COVID-19 restrictions preventing library access and Americans “finding other ways to entertain themselves” as possible explanations.

An early 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that U.S. adults with lower education levels are less likely to read.

“Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, an increasingly common way for adults to read e-books,” researchers for Pew Research Center wrote.

Whatever the reason for U.S. adults reading fewer books, Gallup’s Jones said it’s too soon to know if the trend will hold.

“It is also uncertain at this point whether the declines in book reading mark a temporary change or a more permanent one,” Jones wrote.

Why do you think Americans are reading fewer books? Let me know in the comments. And if you found this article interesting, please share it with others.

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