Finding the time to sit down and read a book can be tough. With distractions like the TV, other people, and the Internet, a lot of people say they simply don’t have time to read. But what if we told you that reading books can have a positive effect on how much money you will earn later in life? Would you be tempted to pick up a book (or e-reader) if you thought that it could improve your earning potential by over 20%?
Researchers in Italy have been looking at how having books around us as children can be shown to directly increase the amount of money you can expect to earn later in life. Three economists from the University of Padua looked at data surrounding 6,000 men born in nine European countries between 1920 and 1956.
This was a time when the school leaving age was increased in many countries across Europe, and while widespread employment for women was still some way off (hence why the study just looked at men?), the results were certainly interesting.
At a time when children left school much earlier than they do now, the economists took an average that said the men could have expected their earnings to increase by 9% for each year of additional education they received. However, it was found that this average grew or decreased according to the number of books the men had in the home as children.
Those who were found to have fewer than 10 books in the home saw their future earnings increase by just 5% per year of extra education while those who had access to a great many books (over 2 bookcases full), had their earnings increased by 21% per year of extra education. Those who had greater access to books were also more likely to move to the cities where the better-paid jobs were, and were more likely to take a white-collar job as their first employment.
The correlation between books and future earnings seems pretty straightforward, but we perhaps need to exercise some caution before we jump to such an easy conclusion.
Let’s not forget that books were not a necessity for those families who may have been struggling to make ends meet and cover the cost of things like food, clothing, and shelter. Meanwhile, homes that contained lots of books may also indicate a higher socio-economic standing in the first place, so those children who were surrounded by books may have had a better start in life anyway. Plus, those families who encouraged reading may also have helped their children develop more advanced cognitive and socio-emotional skills – skills which are proven to be useful in the workplace.
There are a lot of factors that could go into what a person earned in later life, so an equation that says more books in childhood equals more money in later life could be a little too simple. However, even with this taken into consideration, there does seem to be a pattern between the number of books (and thereby the exposure to different information and ideas), and increased earnings later in life.
The books themselves may not tell the whole story, but they certainly seem to have had a positive impact on the earning potential of the thousands of men who were studied for this research.
Of course, owning books is no use unless you actually read them, and it is the reading itself that will make a difference. This is why there is increasing concern about how cuts in school library services may have a negative impact on those who need to use them most.
So, going to your local or school library, bookshop, or even downloading and reading some books electronically is sure to have some sort of positive effect. This link between books and earnings also shows the danger of ‘dumbing down’ in order to fit in – not being a ‘swot’ and deciding not to read could damage your potential earnings later in life.
If you want to expand your knowledge and increase your earnings it seems that you still can’t go wrong with books.