The L train that connects Manhattan and Williamsburg in New York is famously littered with the literate and well groomed. But it turns out it’s the hipsters of Portland whose stereotypical smugness about reading holds more water.
A new survey shows that the US states of Vermont and Oregon have the strongest reading habits in the country.
Surveyors asked US adults whether they had read at least one play, novel, short story, or poem in the last 12 months, outside of work or school. The data were collected in 2012, 2013, and 2015 by the US Census Bureau, then merged by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The data were released on Aug. 30.
According to the NEA’s estimates, 63% of adults in Vermont are reading literature outside work, and 60% in Oregon. Mississippi (22%), Nevada (30%), and Florida (30%) were the states with the lowest rates of reading literature.
The NEA’s percent error is between 4.5% and 14.9% depending on the state (and indeed Mississippi has the highest error rate of all the states), so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from comparing the states side by side. On a regional level, places toward the west coast read the most literature. States in the northeast also have higher rates of reading, with the southern regions faring worst.
Though the survey doesn’t reveal what’s behind the disparity, “socioeconomic status and education levels typically play a factor in differential reading rates,” Sunil Iyengar, NEA’s director of research and analysis, writes in an email.