A Life-Long Popularity Contest

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 24 2012 @ 6:17pm

Sarah Kliff summarizes a recent study finding that the popular kids earn more:

As the researchers looked toward the future, they found that 35 years down the road, the more popular students earned 2 percent more than their peers. That’s nearly half — 40 percent — of the wage differential that students accrue from an additional year of education. If a student moved from the 20th percentile of popular up to the 80th percentile it would yield a salary 10 percent higher — 40 years later. This held true after accounting for a number of separate variables, including family background, school quality, cognitive ability and adult personality traits.

The researchers conclude that "traits that make a student better-liked are pretty similar to those that make one successful in the workforce." Katy Waldman adds:

I know what you’re thinking. You’re like, but what about factors like socioeconomic status, family background, school quality, IQ, human and social capital, and adult personality traits? What about the idea that more contacts in high school could spill over into more adult connections, which certainly doesn’t hurt anyone networking for a job? The study totally controlled for all that. When Slate’s skeptical health and science editor Laura Helmuth (I have such a girl crush on her) finished vetting the study, she told me, "This looks like a legitimate effect. The authors propose that the popular kids understand the ‘rules of the game’ socially and know how to gain acceptance and support; when to trust; and when to reciprocate."