Popular Kids in High School Earn More as Adults

Libby Kane
Posted

In today’s “life isn’t fair” bulletin, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the most popular kids from high school earned more 40 years later than the least popular.

The Wall Street Journal reports that technically, it’s people who were in the “top fifth of the popularity pyramid” (presumably determined by a calculation involving cafeteria tables, amount of honors classes taken and Friday night plans) making 10% more than those from the “bottom fifth.”

But in all seriousness–fine, some seriousness–researchers measured popularity using a survey of student connections to determine “who is actually popular, rather than who perceives themselves to be so,” writes The Journal. (Burn.)

Turns out that high school popularity isn’t exactly serendipitous. Instead, it’s due to a combination of things like “a warm early family environment,” associating with a like-minded crowd and being “relatively older and smarter.” Being wealthier also plays a minor role.

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The researchers assign weight to high school popularity not just because it means you’ll have a date to Homecoming, but because high school is a transitional period when teenagers are moving away from authority figures and looking to each other for guidance. They say that social skills emerging in high school are the foundations of those that will lead to success in adult life, and go so far as to recommend that high schools should expand their curriculum beyond academics to include social skills.

“Policies that focus on promoting integration in schools and on developing social competencies may be a fruitful way of promoting success in life,” they write in their study.