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Why Do Women Read More Fiction?

Working Paper #6, 1998

Steven J. Tepper


The gender gap in fiction reading has been largely ignored by sociologists and scholars in the field of reading research. This paper investigates three primary explanations for why women read more fiction than men, including: the enduring influence of separate spheres ideology, differences in cognition and prose literacy and differences in work status and available free time. Data analysis using two large-scale national surveys reveals that the doctrine of separate spheres, and its influence on childhood socialization, explains much of the gap in fiction reading. This paper contributes to gender theory by linking concepts of separate spheres, leisure participation and fiction reading.

A version of this paper can be found in Poetics, Volume 27, Issue 4, 233-299 (May 2000). The paper is available online at

Full text version in PDF format. (soon to be available)

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