Reading glasses are good for your eyes — and your income : Goats and Soda That's the finding of a new study in Bangladesh, which gave reading glasses to hundreds of people and then measured their earnings.

Glasses aren't just good for your eyes. They can be a boon to income, too

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Americans can buy cheap reading glasses in almost any store. People elsewhere in the world find it harder. And that matters because a simple pair of glasses can make a huge difference in people's incomes. NPR's Gabrielle Emanuel reports.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: Jasmin Atker calls her glasses her best friend, but they do something most best friends don't do - they help her make money. Speaking through an interpreter, Atker, who's a grandmother, explains that her family farm in central Bangladesh used to just have cows.

JASMIN AKTER: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: After getting the glasses, she started vegetable farming.

EMANUEL: Atker got reading glasses through a charity and can now see things up close. She can pick insects off her plants, sort seeds, and keep records of how much milk her cows produce. She even got a stand at the market, and her monthly income jumped dramatically. Turns out, Atker's story is common.

NATHAN CONGDON: A pair of glasses can increase earnings 33% for shopkeepers, agricultural workers, craftspeople.

EMANUEL: Nathan Congdon is at Queen's University Belfast, and he's the co-author of a study published this week in PLOS One. His team found more than 800 adults in Bangladesh villages who needed reading glasses. Half got them right away. The others had to wait until the study was done. For those who got glasses, not only did earnings increase, but some re-entered the workforce. This is the first time academics directly linked glasses to higher earnings. Congdon says there's a huge global need for reading glasses, especially as people approach 40.

CONGDON: It's a universal thing. It affects over a billion people in the world today.

EMANUEL: Many countries require people to get a prescription, even for cheap drugstore glasses. David Friedman is with Harvard Medical School.

DAVID FRIEDMAN: In the developing world, it is super hard to get a simple pair of glasses in more remote regions.

EMANUEL: Friedman was not involved in the study, but he was excited to see the results.

FRIEDMAN: This is the first time we can really say that something that'll improve the quality of life from a visual standpoint will also help with poverty alleviation.

EMANUEL: He's hoping this study will refocus attention on the importance of eye care around the world.

Gabrielle Emanuel, NPR News.

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