June 2, 2016

Did you grow up surrounded by books? Well then, you must be rich!


book-pilesAccording to a new study published in the Economic Journal, children who grow up with a large number of books in the house earn more money later in life. Or at least boys do…

Three economists at the University of Padua in Italy — Giorgio Brunello, Guglielmo Weber, and Christoph Weiss — studied 6,000 men from nine European countries educated in the period from 1920 to 1956, when governments across Europe required an extra year of schooling. They looked at whether, at the age of ten, a child lived in a house with fewer than 10 books, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two bookcases.

The Guardian reported on the findings:

Men brought up in households with less than a shelf of books earned only 5% more as a result of the extra year’s education, compared with 21% more for those who had access to a lot of books. And those that had access to books were more likely to move to the better-earning opportunities in cities than those without books.”

The men’s first job was also much more likely to be a white-collar job.

The economists offer a number of theories for the results. “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.”

Which seems to make sense, but can the same be said for women?

A more recent survey on reading habits in England carried out in 2013 by Booktrust in 2013 showed that, across all age groups, females are more frequent readers than males. Amongst males, only 14% of those under thirty read every day, a percentage that more than doubles to nearly 31% among men over sixty. For females, 18% of under-30s read every day, which increases to nearly half (48%) among over-60s.

Over half of respondents were found to have more than fifty books at home with the average being just over 200, although this was boosted by the fact that some reported having large collections. And females tended to own more books on average than males (229 compared with 181).

The study also concluded that “people who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.” It also found that more frequent book readers tend to live in areas of lower deprivation, with fewer children living in poverty.

Whilst surrounding yourself with books may not guarantee you vast wealth (looking at my overflowing bookcases, I should be a millionaire), it seems it can improve your wellbeing and happiness.

So what are you waiting for? Get book shopping!



Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.