Social effects of book reading
Social Effects of Culture: Exploratory Statistical Evidence and Detailed Statistical Models
IssueBook publishing and reading
Social Effects of Culture: Exploratory Statistical Evidence
Social Effects of Culture: Detailed Statistical Models
Hill Strategies Research, March 31 and July 23, 2008
Two recent reports from Hill Strategies Research investigate the social impacts of cultural activities, including book reading. The data is drawn from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey of 2005. A total of 9,851 respondents answered the survey’s cultural questions. The reports define a book reader as anyone who read at least one book, of any type, in 2005. This is clearly a low threshold of cultural participation.
The report subtitled “Exploratory Statistical Evidence” examines the relationship between four cultural activities (reading books, attending live performances, visiting art galleries and attending movie theatres) and social phenomena such as volunteering, donating, neighbourhood connections, sense of belonging and quality of life.
Some statistics in the report show a relationship between book reading and positive social engagement. In particular, the percentage of book readers volunteering for a non-profit organization (42%) is much higher than the percentage of non-readers (25%). The percentage of book readers donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (82%) is much higher than the percentage of non-readers (66%). Seventy-one percent of book readers (compared with 65% of non-readers) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month. Forty-nine percent of book readers have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, compared with 42% of non-readers. Book readers have a lower rate of workaholism than non-readers (22% of book readers compared with 31% of non-readers).
The second report provides detailed statistical models of six social indicators: Feeling trapped in a daily routine; Volunteering; Donating; Doing a favour for a neighbour; Sense of belonging to one’s province; and Sense of belonging to Canada. Building on the exploratory report, the statistical models in the second report examine whether cultural activities have an impact on social indicators above and beyond demographic information.
The second report shows that book reading has a positive impact on three of the social indicators: volunteer rates, donation rates and doing a favour for a neighbour. These statistics relate to the models that held all other factors constant, such as other arts activities and demographic factors.
For the other three social indicators examined (feeling trapped in a daily routine, having a very strong sense of belonging to one’s province or having a very strong sense of belonging to Canada), book reading did not have a statistically significant influence above and beyond other arts activities and demographic factors.
Overall, the reports show that Canadians who read are more likely to be socially active than Canadians who do not read.