Atlantic Cities

Who Reads the Most: Cities, Suburbs, or Rural Areas?

Who Reads the Most: Cities, Suburbs, or Rural Areas?
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It's time to settle this literary sparring match once and for all. Who reads more -- the bohemians and working stiffs of the city or the family-oriented folks of the suburbs?

According to a recent study released by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life project [PDF], prideful bookworms on both sides of the 8-Mile Road may bury the hatchet. City-dwellers and suburbanites have almost exactly the same reading habits. Four out of five residents over the age of 16, in city and suburb alike, claim to have read a book in the past year.

Rural residents come in a distinct third, with 71 percent reporting having read a book in the last 12 months. Rural residents who do read books, though, read as much as their densely settled counterparts. 

In all three groups, over three-quarters of readers read for pleasure. Fifty-eight and 57 percent of urbanites and suburbanites read for work or school, respectively, compared to 47 percent of rural residents. The metro-area folks maintain a similar lead in the percentage of population with a library card, 59-61-48.

Over 60 percent of all readers get their recommendations from family and friends, though urban and suburban residents are more likely (25 and 24 percent) to get advice from a bookstore. City types have taken the lead on e-books, while suburbanites still read the most magazines. 

Ultimately, according to the directors of the study, Carolyn Miller, Kristen Purcell, and Lee Rainie, the song remains the same. "The biggest factors at play when it comes to different reading habits are people’s ages, their level of education, and their household income," they write. "The type of community in which people live is not an independent predictor of their reading behavior or their activities at libraries."

 

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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