NEA Report: Poetry Reading on the Rise

Poetry reading in the U.S. has increased, according to new data from the National Endowment for the Arts' 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Nearly 12% (28 million) adults read poetry in the last year, the highest on record as a share of the total U.S. adult population over a 15-year period of conducting the SPPA. The rate is five percentage points up from the 2012 survey period (6.7%) and three points up from 2008 (8.3%).

The growth in reading poetry is seen across most demographic sub-groups, including:

  • Among 18-24-year-olds, the poetry-reading rate was highest at 17.5%, up from 8.2% in 2012. Among all age groups, 25-34-year-olds had the next highest rate at 12.3%, up from 6.7% in 2012.
  • Women showed notable gains (14.5%, up from 8% in 2012) and, as in prior years, accounted for more than 60% of all poetry readers. Men's rate grew from 5.2% in 2012 to 8.7% in 2017.
  • Among racial/ethnic subgroups, African Americans (15.3%, up from 6.9% in 2012), Asian Americans (12.6%, up from 4.8%), and other non-white, non-Hispanic groups (13.5%, up from 4.7%) now read poetry at the highest rates. Poetry reading also increased among Hispanics (9.7%, up from 4.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (11.4%, up from 7.2%).
  • Of those who attended but did not graduate from college, 13% read poetry in 2017, up from 6.6% in 2012. College graduates (15.2%, up from 8.7%) and adults with graduate or professional degrees (19.7%, up from 12.5%) also showed sizeable increases.
  • Urban and rural residents read poetry at a comparable rate (11.8% and 11.2% respectively).

"These increases definitely reflect what we've been witnessing over in our corner of the office," said Amy Stolls, NEA Director of Literature. "I suspect social media has had an influence, as well as other robust outreach activities and efforts, many of which we support through our grants to publishers and presenters, fellowships to individual poets, Poetry Out Loud, and the NEA Big Read."

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