On Thursday, as A.O. Scott mourned the death of adulthood in American culture (R.I.P.), a new study by the Pew Research Center confirmed that it’s young adults who are keeping American (literary) culture alive. Contrary to reports that have questioned whether or not millennials read, younger Americans actually read more than their older counterparts: 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 reported having read a book in the past year, compared with 79 percent of those older than 30.
What’s more, libraries are not a cherished refuge of the old, but a destination for the young: In a September 2013 survey, 50 percent of respondents between the ages of 16 and 29 had used a library in the past year, compared with 47 percent of their older counterparts, and 36 percent of people under 30 had used a library website in that same time frame; compared with 28 percent of the over-30s. (Admittedly, the numbers for high school and college-aged respondents may actually seem surprisingly low, given their reliance on libraries and books for school research.)
Elsewhere according to Pew, those over 30, as well as millennials between the ages of 25 and 29, are more likely to read the news on a daily basis than younger people. Perhaps the report’s most remarkable finding, however, is that 62 percent of Americans under 30 believe that there’s a lot of important information that exists outside of the Internet, while only 53 percent of older Americans believe the same. Millennials, it turns out, are the keepers of that (old, adult) Socratic idea that the more one knows, the more one understands how little one knows. They must have read that in a library book.