Briefing Note (BN169)

The link between childhood reading skills and adult outcomes: analysis of a cohort of British children

Date: 09 April 2015
Publisher: Institute for Fiscal Studies
ISBN: 978-1-909463-85-1
DOI: 10.1920/bn.ifs.2015.00169

This briefing note builds on previous work by Crawford and Cribb (2013) to investigate the link between children’s reading skills at age 10 and their outcomes as adults using data from the British Cohort Study (a survey of individuals born in one week of April 1970). We find that reading skills are associated with significant increases in gross hourly wages and gross weekly earnings, particularly at older ages (ages 38 and 42), but less consistent evidence for strong links between reading skills in childhood and other outcomes in adulthood, including the likelihood of being in work, self-reported health status and the intergenerational transmission of reading skills. We also find some suggestive evidence that the link between reading skills in childhood and wages and earnings in adulthood is stronger amongst those from poor backgrounds. Overall, this note provides suggestive evidence that improving reading skills in childhood may be one route through which earnings potential in adulthood could be increased, although it should be noted that these estimates are associations rather than evidence of causality.