Boys who grow up around books earn more, study says

A study of 6,000 European men revealed that those who grew up with 10 non-school books at home earned more than their peers

Books, Boys, Men, Study, earning, wages, salaries, Guglielmo Weber, University of Padova

[Flickr/Stuart Beard]

Some good news for boys everywhere that identify as book worms, as a new study has shown that exposure to reading at a young age can lead to higher earnings in the future.

A group of economic researchers at the University of Padova in Italy looked at a sample set of 5,820 men from all over Europe to examine how the amount of compulsory schooling affected earnings over their lifetimes. In the process, the team discovered that across nine different nations, boys who had an extra year of classes – mostly down to age requirements – would eventually see an additional 9% income in their pockets compared to their peers.

The research was collected based on data sets provided by volunteers aged between 60 and 96 in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden – all part of an ongoing longitudinal study of lifestyle habits of Europeans. The men answered questions based on whether they were raised in urban or rural places, the years they spent in compulsory education, roughly how many books they had in their homes at the age of 10, and what their income was across their lives.

But a more surprising outcome from the research was that among the boys who had the extra year of school, a subset of those polled earned even more, as much as 21%. After crunching the numbers, it was revealed that this group of men had been exposed to more than 10 non-school books – that is to say, books that were not required reading by school curricula – in their childhoods.

Ten appears to be the magic number, as statistically speaking there were no significant differences between the earning potential of men who had read 50, 100, or 200 books during their childhoods. And other environmental factors, like whether they came from white or blue-collar families or even if their homes had running water, did not make an impact.

Guglielmo Weber, one of the researchers on the project, said that as with any study, this one does not show causation between salaries and books.

“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. Or it could be because homes with books capture families with stronger cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds,” he wrote.

In short, a book lying on a shelf in a boy’s bedroom could be an indicator of growing up in a privileged family environment or in a home that promotes learning and knowledge seeking. Or that books themselves have the potential to spark interest and determination in growing boys.

“Even nowadays, books capture something,” Weber added.


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