Cohort research suggests teenagers who read are more likely to get good jobs

11 April 2011

A new study by Oxford researcher Mark Taylor suggests a strong relationship between reading in your teens and being in a professional or managerial job in your thirties.

Taylor’s study, based on data from the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), shows that girls from middle-class families had a 39 per cent probability of a professional or managerial post in adulthood if they read regularly when they were 16, compared to 25 per cent if they didn’t. For middle-class boys, the figures went from a 58 per cent probability down to 48 per cent.

Reading in their teens was also found to be linked to whether or not the BCS70 participants went to university. The chances of 16-year-old boys from middle-class families going to university rose from 40 per cent to 51 per cent if they read as a teenager. For middle-class girls, their chances went from 38 per cent to 50 per cent. This difference was similar for their working-class peers.

Taylor noted that ‘the positive associations of reading for pleasure aren’t replicated in any other extra-curricular activity, regardless of our expectations’. But chances of going to university were highest when teenagers took part in other leisure activities in addition to reading, such as playing an instrument or going to museums. For working-class girls, the chances of going to university jumped to 48 per cent if they were involved in other activities as well, as opposed to 20 per cent for reading alone. For boys the numbers jumped from 24 per cent to 54 per cent.

Taylor presented his findings at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference on April 8. The research attracted significant interest from the national press.

Press coverage:

BBC Radio 4: ‘The benefits of reading for pleasure

Telegraph: ‘Reading as a teenager gets you a better job

Times: ‘Best way to success is by the book

Express: ‘Bookworm teenagers are most likely to get top jobs

Daily Mail: ‘Forget music lessons and sports clubs…reading in your teens is the key to a good career

For more information, see the Oxford University press release.

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