People Who Grow Up Around Books Are More Successful, Study Suggests


It doesn't matter if you were team Jacob or team Edward. If you grew up around books as a kid, you're likely going to be more successful.

A new study published in the Economic Journal found that men who had access to books from a young age tended to make more money over the course of their lives, Quartz reported. 

The first part of the study: Using data on 5,820 European men, researchers first examined whether an extra year of education — due to changing age requirements — affected the men's lifetime earnings. 

More education is linked to more money, the researchers found. On average, "an additional year of education increases lifetime earnings by 9%," they wrote.

Here's where the books come in: Among those lucky men who got an extra year of school, those whose childhood homes contained "at least a shelf of books" increased their lifetime earnings by 21%. Tell this to all the kids who laughed at you for keeping the full Harry Potter series next to your bed.

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There was no difference in earnings among men who grew up around 50, 100 or 200 books, according to Quartz — the key was that they had more than 10.

Is voracious reading the key to earning more money? Not necessarily. As Quartz points out, the study found correlation — not causation — between books and lifetime earnings. If a kid grows up around books, it could be a sign that his parents encourage intellectual pursuits and prestigious career choices.

"Children who grew up in homes with books may have more chances to learn about life and the universe, and to have new experiences through books," researcher Guglielmo Weber said, according to Quartz. "Or it could be because homes with books capture families with stronger cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds."

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And as New York magazine observed, the study's data comes from the pre-internet era. How might the findings apply to kids who discover stories through websites or video games?

Whatever the case, there's no disputing it: Reading is good for us. 

One study found that reading literary fiction increases our empathy. And in another recent study, researchers found that reading for pleasure increases the rate at which kids learn various subjects.

"Reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress ... in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics," researcher Alice Sullivan wrote in the Guardian. "In fact, the impact was around four times greater than that of having a parent with a post-secondary degree."