By conventional wisdom, the things we own don’t define us — no matter how much we hope they will. But, according to science, our belongings are pretty damn good at offering some predictions.
Over on Core77, Rain Noe discusses a sweeping international study by a team of Stanford and University of Munich researchers, who looked at all sorts of questions about how economics, school conditions, and parents end up affecting education. But one of the most interesting tidbits concerned the fact that a child’s achievements at school can also be fairly accurately predicted by finding out whether his or her parents own a very simple object.
That object? A bookshelf. Two, actually. According to the study’s authors, the educational achievements of British children whose parents owned two bookcases differed from children whose parents didn’t by 1.15 standard deviations. In plain language, that’s three times the amount of what the average kid learns during a year of school.
“Books at home are the single most important predictor of student performance in most countries,” write the study authors. But they're quick to point out that the relationship isn’t so much about the causal relationship between kids and books — it’s about the differences in parenting. “The consistency of the estimates across studies is not meant to imply that books in the home per se are causally related to achievement and that providing more books to families would raise student performance. Books in the home proxy systematic differences in parenting, home education, and home resources...”
It’s not altogether surprising — after all, access to books was proven a reliable indicator of education level long ago — but it’s fascinating to know that the mere presence of books is correlated to a kid’s achievements in school. Another interesting point? Whether or not this measure will hold up as the tablet becomes a more popular way to read. [The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement, via Core77]