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Factors in Canadians’ Cultural Activities in 2005

Book reading findings

February 24, 200824 February 2008

Reading, Publishing and Literacy

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This report examines demographic and other factors involved in book reading (as well as three other cultural activities), based on data from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey of 2005, an in-depth telephone survey of about 10,000 Canadians 15 years of age or older.

As a leisure activity (not for paid work or studies), two-thirds of Canadians 15 years of age or older (67%, or 17.4 million people) read at least one book in 2005.

Overall, book reading appears to be an activity that is enjoyed fairly equally by many groups of Canadians. Compared with the other cultural activities examined in the report, book reading is very egalitarian with regards to income. Seventy-four percent of individuals in households with incomes of $100,000 or more read a book in 2005, a figure that is only 1.1 times the reading rate for individuals in households with incomes of less than $20,000 (66%). This ratio (1.1) is much lower than the equivalent ratios among movie-goers (1.7), art gallery attendees (1.8) and performing arts attendees (2.0).

The only demographic factors that have a substantial impact on book reading rates are education and sex:

  • 82% of Canadians with at least a bachelor’s degree read a book in 2005. This is 1.5 times the reading rate for individuals with less than a high school diploma (54%).
  • Women are much more likely than men to read as a leisure activity. In 2005, 75% of women read a book, compared to 58% of men. The female reading rate is 1.3 times the male rate.

Demographic factors that have either a limited or no impact on book reading include age, income, presence of children, residing in an urban area, language, country of birth and activity limitations.

The report finds that cultural experiences and cultural exposure are, in general, more important factors in book reading than demographic factors. In fact, eight of the top 10 predictors of book reading are cultural activities, not demographic factors.

Book reading is highest for those Canadians who visited an art gallery: 85% of those who visited an art gallery also read a book in 2005.

Eighty-two percent of those who visited a museum (other than an art gallery) also read a book in 2005. This is equal to the reading rate for the best-educated Canadians (reading rate of 82% for those with at least a bachelor’s degree).

The reading rate is also high for other cultural attendees:

  • 80% for attendees at performances of cultural/heritage music, theatre or dance (e.g. Aboriginal Peoples, Chinese, Ukrainian);
  • 79% for those who visited an historic site;
  • 78% for those who went to a cultural festival;
  • 78% for performing arts attendees (theatre, pop music and classical music);
  • 77% for those who attended another type of performance; and
  • 76% for those who visited a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden or other heritage site.

All of these cultural crossovers rank more highly than the second-best demographic factor (high income). Seventy-four percent of individuals in households with incomes of $100,000 or more read a book in 2005.

In addition to the book reading percentages, a statistical model of book reading confirmed the importance of education, sex, art gallery visits and other cultural factors in book reading.

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