High School Popularity Influences Potential Earnings Later in Life

High School Cheerleaders

A recent study found that the most popular high school students earned 10% higher wages nearly 40 years after graduation compared to their less popular peers.

A new study indicates that the top fifth of the high school popularity pyramid garnered 10% more in wages nearly 40 years after graduation, compared to the bottom fifth.

This study was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Popularity wasn’t viewed by the researchers as an innate personality trait. Instead, popularity is lucrative because the children who learn to play the game in high school are figuring out what they need to know to succeed in the workplace. The study suggests that schools might want to join their academic missions with one that could help students build up their social skills.

It’s not easy to quantify popularity. The researchers based their findings on a model that relies on surveys of student connections called the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has been running for more than 50 years. This data is important because it allowed the researchers to understand the direction of friendship.

The scientists were able to see that there is a web of relationships that determines who actually is popular, rather than who perceives themselves as so.

The ability to form friendships rests on a series of factors. “Positive association between a warm early family environment” and being liked among students are some of them. They also found that the students they studied tended to associate with those that were similar to themselves.

The study goes on to suggest that older and smarter students are generally more popular, while relative family income status plays only a minor role. The students that turn their attention from older authority figures to themselves show the skills that will serve them well when they enter the workplace.

Social interactions between classmates train individual personalities on how to be socially adequate for adult roles.

Reference: “Popularity” by Gabriella Conti, Andrea Galeotti, Gerrit Mueller and Stephen Pudney, October 2012, National Bureau of Economic Research.
DOI: 10.3386/w18475

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