Americans Read an Average of 16.8 Minutes Per Day; Spend 166.2 Minutes Watching TV

Terence P. Jeffrey | June 28, 2018 | 5:38pm EDT
Font Size
(Screen Capture)

( - Americans spent an average of 16.8 minutes a day (or 0.28 of an hour) reading on their own volition for purposes other than work or school in 2017, according to survey data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is the least amount of time Americans have dedicated to reading since the BLS began tracking the question in 2003. That year Americans spent an average of 21.6 minutes a day reading.

At the same time, according to the survey, Americans spent an average of 166.2 minutes (or 2.77 hours) per day watching TV in 2017.

The 166.2 minutes on average per day that Americans spent watching television in 2017 was almost ten times as much as the 16.8 minutes they spent on average reading.

Both reading for personal interest and watching TV were included in what the survey calls “leisure activities.”

“Leisure activities,” says the BLS report on the survey, “include watching television; reading; relaxing or thinking; playing computer, board, or card games; using a computer or the Internet for personal interest; playing or listening to music; and other activities, such as attending arts, cultural, and entertainment events.”

In the fifteen years for which BLS has published data on the amount of reading Americans do as a leisure activity, American reading peaked in 2004 and 2005. In those years, American spent an average of 22.8 minutes per day reading.

The data is part of the agency’s annual “American Time Use Survey” (ATUS), which was first conducted in 2003. In 2017, the survey interviewed approximately 10,2000 individuals to ask them how they spent their time.

The nationwide average time spent engaging in a particular activity includes the zero minutes spent on that activity by people who do not engage in it at all. “The average day measure reflects an average distribution across all persons, in the reference population and all days of the week.” The average of 16.8 minutes per day spent on reading included all people 15 years and older.

The survey indicated that women (19.8 minutes) spent more time reading on average than men (13.2 minutes).

It also revealed a significant difference in reading habits based on a person’s age.

“Time spent reading for personal interest varied greatly by age,” said the BLS report on the survey. “Individuals age 75 and over averaged 51 minutes of reading per day whereas individuals ages 15 to 44 read for an average of 10 minutes or less per day.”

In fact, the survey data indicates Americans in the 20-to-34 age bracket read the least and people 75 and older read the most.

Americans 15 to 19 years old, read an average of 8.4 minutes per day, according to the survey. Americans 20 to 24 and 25 to 34 read an average of 6.6 minutes per day. Americans 35 to 44 read and average of 9.6 minutes per day. Americans 45 to 54 read an average of 12.6 minutes per day. Americans 55 to 64 read an average of 18 minutes per day. American 65 to 74 read an average of 34.8 minutes per day. And Americans 75 and over read an average of 51 minutes per day.

The average amount of time spent reading per day also tracked with a person’s educational attainment. However, according to the survey, even Americans with advanced degrees read an average of only 27 minutes per day. High school graduates who did not attend college read an average of 15 minutes per day.

The extra leisure time that Americans often have on the weekend did not add much to their reading time, according to the survey. Overall, Americans spent an average of 16.2 minutes reading on weekdays and 17.4 minutes reading on weekends.

The survey indicated that Americans spend an average of 5.24 per day on all “leisure and sports activities,” including reading. Among the leisure and sports activities specifically listed in the survey results, “watching TV” was the most popular—with Americans dedicating an average of 2.77 hours (166.2 minutes) to that activity.

“Reading” was the least popular—with Americans dedicating 0.28 hours (or 16.8 minutes) to that activity.

mrc merch