Media, Entertainment and Sport

This chart shows how reading for pleasure is declining in the US

Girl sat on a sofa reading.

In 2019, the average American read for just 16 minutes per day. Image: Unsplash/Seven shooter

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Media, Entertainment and Sport?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Media, Entertainment and Sport is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Media, Entertainment and Sport

  • The time an average American spends reading declined from 23 minutes per day in 2004, to just 16 minutes in 2019, according to new research.
  • People aged 75 year and older are the most likely to read for pleasure, reading for an average of 44 minutes per day.
  • COVID-19 saw book sales increase, but due to lockdown restrictions there is no current data to see if this increase translated into time spent reading.

As book sales have picked up in the U.S. in recent years, the time spent reading for pleasure and personal interest is nevertheless declining in the country. This is despite the fiction category leading the resurgence in the book market.

According to the Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American still spent 23 minutes per day reading in 2004. That declined to just 16 minutes in 2019, the latest year on record.

A lot of non-readers are skewing the average reading time downwards, however. Taking into account only Americans 15 years and older that do read for pleasure, average reading time per day in 2019 was 1 hour and 30 minutes, down from a peak of 1 hour and 35 minutes in 2012, but a step up from the 1 hour and 23 minutes recorded in 2004.

Book sales spiked in 2020 and 2021 as coronavirus lockdowns cloistered Americans at home, but the pandemic also disrupted the data collection of the BLS survey, which is why no comparable 2020 figures exist.

According to the data, those 75 years and older were among the most avid readers for pleasure, racking up 44 minutes of daily reading time in 2019. Employed Americans read far less, only spending an average of 9 minutes on a leisurely read during a workday.

Chart showing average time spent reading for pleasure per day by Americans 15 years and older.
Average time spent reading for pleasure per day by Americans 15 years and older. Image: Statista

What is the World Economic Forum doing to measure the value in media?

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Media, Entertainment and SportYouth PerspectivesGlobal Health
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How Paris 2024 aims to become the first-ever gender-equal Olympics

Victoria Masterson

April 5, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum