Released: May 1, 2013

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

Part 1: A Profile of Parents

By , , and

Roughly a quarter (26%) of the sample for the full Library Services Survey is parents of minor children, and this report examines their particularly strong attachments to libraries.

Parents are demographically different from the other adults in our sample — and in the wider population. So, the results presented in the remainder of this report should be interpreted in the context of who these parents are.2

This first section will examine the sample of parents analyzed for this report and compare them to national parameters for parents and to the sample of other adults from the survey.

Our parent sample is composed of slightly more mothers than fathers (54% vs. 46%) and it is relatively young (54% under 40 years old) and well-educated (31% some college, 31% four year college or more). While predominantly white (61%), 17% of the sample of parents is Hispanic and 13% African-American. More than half are employed full-time (58%) and an additional 15% are employed part-time or self-employed. Three quarters (73%) are married or living with a partner and 85% report two or more adults in the household. Half (53%) live in the suburbs, a third (32%) in urban areas and 15% are in rural areas. These parents have young children; 55% have a youngest child who is 5 years old or younger, 22% have a youngest child 6 -11 years old, and 23% have a youngest child 12-17 years old.  Three quarters (77%) of the sample have at least one child under 12, 23% have only older children 12-17.

Our sample of parents closely mirrors the national population of parents of minor children as measured by the Census Bureau’s 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. The table below shows the comparison of our sample of parents to these national parameters on some key demographic variables.  Our sample slightly over-represents parents of younger children — 52% of our sample is a parent of at least one child 5 or younger, compared with 46% of the full U.S. population of parents. This should be kept in mind when interpreting findings. There are substantive differences between parents of younger children and parents of older children on questions related to reading, library use, and perceptions of libraries.

06 parent demographics

Comparing the demographic profile of parents of children under 18 to other adults (adults with no children currently under age 18) in our sample reveals some important differences that may, in part, explain differences between the two groups in their reading habits, and relationship with libraries.  Compared with other adults, parents are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s and live in the suburbs.  They are also more likely to be married, somewhat more educated, employed full time and Hispanic.

07 parent and other adult demos

Sometimes there are differences in parents’ responses to our questions that are associated with the age of their children. Of course, many families have several children with different ages. We report on a few different categories of the age of children throughout this report.   For instance, for some questions, we examine parents who have at least one teenager (46% of the sample) and compare them to parents with no teenagers (54% of the parent sample).  For other questions we focus on parents with any children under 5 years (55%) and compare them to parents with no young children (45%).

Cite this publication: Carolyn Miller, Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell. “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2013) http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/05/01/parents-children-libraries-and-reading/, accessed on July 23, 2014.

  1. These “other adults” as we refer to them throughout the report, are adults 16 or older who do not currently have any children 17 or younger.