Book Bans in American Libraries: Impact of Politics on Inclusive Content Consumption
33 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2023 Last revised: 3 Nov 2023
Date Written: June 23, 2023
Banning of books has become increasingly prevalent and politically polarizing in the United States. While the primary goal of these bans is to restrict access to books, conversations about the bans have garnered attention on a wider scale. This increased attention to bans can either have a chilling effect or can influence consumers to read the banned books. In this study, we use a novel, large-scale dataset of US library book circulations and evaluate the impact of book bans on the consumption of banned books. Using a staggered difference-in-differences design, we find that the circulations of banned books increased by 12% on average compared to comparable non-banned titles after the ban. We also find that banning a book in a state leads to increased circulation in states without bans. We show that the increase in consumption is driven by books from lesser-known authors suggesting that new and unknown authors stand to gain from the increasing consumer support. Additionally, our results demonstrate that books with higher visibility on social media following the ban see an increase in consumption, suggesting a link between social media and political consumerism. We also find that book bans have a tangible political impact through campaign donations - Republican Party candidates attract significantly more campaign donations than Democratic candidates, following the ban events but only in Republican-leaning states.
Keywords: book bans, political consumerism, library, social media
JEL Classification: P16, M31, M38, I20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation