The research found a strong association between the earnings of adults and whether they grew up surrounded by books as kids.

Researchers from University of Padua in Italy studied 6,000 men born in nine European countries from the period 1920 to 1956.

They looked at whether, at the age of 10, 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.

Researchers found that an additional year of education increased a man's average lifetime earnings by 9 percent. The returns varied markedly according to socio-economic background, 'the Guardian' reported.

Men who grew up in houses with less than a shelf of books earned 5 percent more as a result of the extra year's education, compared with 21 per cent more for those who had access to a lot of books, researchers said.

Those who had access to books were more likely to move to better-earning opportunities in cities than those without books, they said.

Researchers said that the number of books in a house can effectively predict the cognitive test scores of a child, which are important for economic success in life.

The findings were published in the Economic Journal.

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