Books in the house are correlated with good outcomes for children

A study recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility found that just having books around the house (the more, the better) is correlated with how many years of schooling a child will complete. The study (authored by M.D.R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikorac and Donald J. Treimand) looked at samples from 27 nations, and according to its abstract, found that growing up in a household with 500 or more books is "as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father." Children with as few as 25 books in the family household completed on average two more years of schooling than children raised in homes without any books.

That's from Laura Miller.


How can Kindle / iPad owners recreate this advantage?

Do we think it is driven by the general learnedness of the parents or by the opportunity for kids to develop an early love of learning by stumbling on lots of interesting books?

If the latter, how can we re-create that in a world where paper books may not be around forever?

Did they check the positive control?

I agree that this seems like an obvious endogeneity problem. However, it would be great to find out what the true ''treatment effect'' of books on kids' learning is. There must be a labor economist somewhere who has answered this question.

Whatever happened to libraries?

Maybe I have a limited perspective, but I don't think I've ever been in a home, with children, that had ZERO books.

I have already read about it - wasn't it in freakonomics? The authors concluded that what matters is what parents 'are' instead at what they 'do'. Having lots of books at home is a sign what parents 'are'. Putting more books probably won't help.

Where's Bryan when you need him? Say it loud -- Parent's IQ.

Cool- I think I'm going to come up with a set of 501 books that parents can buy that will be cheap and printed small and will easily fit into the back of a closet- well worth the investment in their kid's future! :-)

Nothing like a good dose of endogeneity. I also hear that getting married raises your wages by 15 percent... or some such.

Damn. I acquired books instead of kids.

Yet another study that ignores heredity. Without controlling for genetics, these studies tell us nothing.

This question was already investigated by the modern Sherlock Holmes:

In Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis says, "There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones."

For a large enough sample size, almost all positive social indicators are positively correlated.

I think adopted kids will turn out to be book-blind.

Hmmm. My two siblings and I grew up in the same household with lots of books. My brother dropped out of college after two years. My sister completed her undergrad work in . . . psychology, which hardly equipped her for anything subsequently, professionally or personally. I was the only one to earn a master's degree; but then, I was the only one of us to've been a reading prodigy (my parents discovered that I'd already learned to read before age six, without benefit of instruction). Does one out of three constitute strict correlation?

Let us not forget the importance of taking children to the local library
from a very young age. The very sight of books will plant a seed or many
seeds. I suppose even here parents who have books in the house are more
likely to do so.

Agree with the assessment of libraries. My mom took me there starting when I was 4 or so and in my "reading prime" at 8-14 or so I would read about 300 pages of non-fiction per day.

I could have sworn I read Steve Levitt debunk this sort of causal theory in Freakonomics years ago. How is this news?

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