Books and reading are closely linked to good numeracy, literacy, and problem-solving skills among 16 to 24-year-olds, analysis of the 2014 Survey of Adult Skills shows.
The Education Ministry report said New Zealand's 16-24 year olds were slightly above the OECD averages for numeracy and literacy but eighth of 28 nations for problem-solving.
It said among home environment factors, having more than 200 books at home when people were 16 years old was most closely linked to higher literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills for New Zealand's 16-24-year-olds.
Those who read books or magazines and newspapers once a week also had better scores than those who did so every month or never.
Low skills among youth were associated with speaking a language other than English at home, parents having few qualifications, being Māori or Pasifika, and living in a deprived area.
The survey found Māori youth scores had improved more than any other group since 2006 in literacy and, to a lesser extent, in numeracy.
Māori also improved their skills more than any other ethnic group as they got older.
However, young people who had low skills did not tend to increase their skills as they aged and higher-skilled teenagers were much more likely than their low-skilled peers to gain tertiary qualifications in their early twenties, the report said.