Popular kids in school get higher paychecks down the line, study says

Popular high school students such as Ferris Bueller, right, in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" are likely to earn more than their less-liked peers, according to a new report.

Good luck, Gleeks and band dorks. A new report suggests that running with the in crowd in high school bodes well for future earnings potential.

Those considered popular in secondary school earned 2% more decades later than oddballs such as Napoleon Dynamite – a so-called popularity premium.

So says a new analysis of data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which follows more than 10,000 people who graduated from the blackboard jungle in Wisconsin in 1957.

Forty years after graduation, those who were in the 80th percentile of the popularity chain earned 10% more than their peers in the 20th. That’s equal to 40% of the extra income boost they’d get from an extra year of schooling (hat tip to the Washignton Post).


For Ferris Bueller and his ilk, “skill in building positive personal and social relationships and adjusting to the demands of a social situation” likely translate into good relationships with colleagues and clients in the workforce, according to the report.

Researchers deemed students to be popular based on how many of their cohorts listed them as friends. Older and smarter students, as well as those who hailed from a warm family environment, tended to rank high on the social totem pole.

But being able to host underage parties at fancy homes or swerve onto campus in a slick car didn’t help much: Household wealth played “only a minor role” in popularity.

It’s unclear whether the Cher Horowitzes and Regina Georges of the country enjoy the same wage boost from popularity – researchers limited their analysis to some 4,000 male respondents. They also didn’t factor in whether popular students’ relationships with their friends were close.

And the report doesn’t delve too deeply into personality traits, sidestepping the common trope of popular-guy-as-bully. But a separate report last year found that nice guys generally earn less than their meaner counterparts.

Gabriella Conti of the University of Chicago, Gerrit Mueller of the Institute for Employment Research, and Andrea Galeotti and Stephen Pudney of the University of Essex compiled the Wisconsin report.


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