Activities such as sports, playing a musical instrument or computer games make no difference to a person’s career, but there is a clear link between reading for pleasure and gaining a good job, it found.
The research, by Mark Taylor of Nuffield College, Oxford University, analysed the responses of 17,200 people born in 1970 who gave details of their extra-curricular activities at age 16, and their jobs at age 33.
The findings show that 16-year-olds who read a book at least once a month were “significantly” more likely to be in a professional or managerial position at the age of 33 than those who did not read.
For girls, there was a 39 per cent probability that they would be in a professional or managerial position at 33 if they read at 16, compared to a 25 per cent chance if they had not.
Among boys, there was a 58 per cent chance of being in a good job at 33 if they had read as a teenager, compared to a 48 per cent chance if they had not.
Mr Taylor, who is presenting the findings at the British Sociological Association’s conference in London, said: “According to our results, there is something special about reading for pleasure – the positive associations of reading for pleasure aren’t replicated in any other extra-curricular activity, regardless of our expectations.”