It literally pays for people to like you. In a new study, the more popular kids in high school ended up earning more than their less-popular peers.
Much like fashion trends from high school, one would think that popularity would go out of style once the real world calls. Being prom king or queen would be useful only for a short period of your life and after that, actual skills would be more useful and your job security, or salary, would be based on how well you actually did your job. Well, that’s not always the case, as the most popular people also earn more.
In a study published by the National Bureau of Economics, researchers analyzed the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed more than 10,300 Wisconsin high school seniors from 1957. Survey data was collected from participants, family, or spouses every few years up until 2005.
In the WLS, the participants had to name three, or more, of your closest friends. Researchers were not looking at the people who had named the most friends. The researchers were actually looking for the individuals who were nominated most by other people.
By picking the people who were chosen most by their peers, the researchers were able to establish a scientific criterion for popularity. Using this data, researchers determined that the more popular you were, the more you made.
Researchers ruled out the idea that popular people established long-term friendships and used those contacts for jobs in the future. Popular participants who left Wisconsin still earned more.
In fact, more popular people, compared to their less popular peers, earned 2 percent more 35 years down the line. According to researchers, “is roughly 40 percent of the return accruing to one more year of education.” That holds true even after considering factors such as school quality, family background or cognitive ability.
Moving up the social ladder could earn you some serious money as well. Going from the bottom 20 percent to the top 20 percent would lead to earning 10 percent more. Popularity earns dollars, according to researchers, because it reflects the skill a person has in “building positive personal and social relationships and adjusting to the demands of a social situation.”
Science has proven, once again, that social capital and being popular carries great weight in life. Another recent study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, showed that popular people were also happier.
Some limitations of the study include the lack of women involved, due it starting in 1957, when few women were going into the workforce.
It would be interesting to see how this study could be applied using our current tools of measuring popularity. Could the number of people on Facebook who consider you a friend relate to how much you earn or is Facebook too over-inflated to find anything meaningful from the social connections?