Children who grow up with a large number of books in the house earn more money later in life, according to a new study published in the Economic Journal.
Economists from the University of Padua in Italy studied 6,000 men born in nine European countries in the mid-20th century, categorising them depending on whether they had fewer than 10 books at home, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two.
Giorgio Brunello, Guglielmo Weber and Christoph Weiss estimated the effect of education on lifetime earnings by “distinguishing between individuals who lived in rural or urban areas during childhood, and between individuals with access to many or few books at home at age 10.”
The study said that although school reforms had the most effect on individuals in rural areas, “those with many books enjoyed substantially higher returns to their additional education”.
An extra year of education was found to increase a man’s lifetime earnings by 9% on average, but those brought up with very few books at home saw only a 5% rise. For subjects with a large number of books the rise was 21%.
Those with a larger amount of books were also found to be more likely to move to cities where there are better earning opportunities than those with few books.
Researchers said: “Perhaps books matter because they encourage children to read more and reading can have positive effects on school performance... Alternatively, a home filled with books indicates advantageous socio-economic conditions.”
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