Some reader comments to my last blog, “Is Writing Only for the Rich?” intimated that, yes, having time and means are necessary to fostering creativity. It seems especially true now that so many publishers are charging contest and submission fees. No longer is time the only consideration when launching a writing career—now one must also be able to afford the expense of establishing writing credentials.
The comments started me thinking, not about writing this time, but about reading. A little research turned up these statistics, courtesy of The Jenkins Group, a Traverse City, Michigan specialty book publisher and marketing firm, which sponsored a study1 on reading:
- 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
- 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
- 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
- 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
Whether these stats are completely accurate or not, the numbers are sobering. But the real story may come when you compare this information to statistics from the Federal Reserve2. Their numbers show that income and net worth in the 80th percentile and above are significantly higher. In fact the curve is hyperbolic when you get to the 90-plus percentile—net worth among the rich is five times greater than those in the 80-89th percentile, ten times greater than 60-79, and thirty-three times greater than the 20th percentile.3
I know it’s not scientific to put those two sets of numbers together, but perhaps what they’re telling us is that the non-affluent simply don’t read. Not just read a little, but do not read books at all. The reasons (TV, movies, internet, general tanking of the American educational system, George W. Bush, etc.) don’t really matter. What matters is they don’t fucking read. So not only are the non-affluent underrepresented economically, they are not well represented in literature. Sure, there are plenty of stories about the less affluent in books and journals, but if they’re being written by people who are affluent (see my previous blog), are those stories realistic? Are they true, or are they just the romantic musings of writers who have never been in that situation? What’s the perspective?
As a writer, I know it’s important to consider a potential audience when creating. If that audience is affluent, I may alter my writing to appeal to their tastes. Why not? Maybe thinking about all this is a waste of time, as much a waste of time as trying to get under-educated, non-affluent, TV-watching slobs to care about reading.
Look for more stories from me about angst among the affluent.
- Can’t vouch for the veracity of these stats, but they sure are provocative.
- Stats from 2007, latest year I could find.
- Big surprise, huh?