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Popular kids earn more

09 March 2009 Essex, University of

Being popular with your peers at school could mean you earn more as an adult. That’s according to new research by a team at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).

The research, which used American data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, found a clear link between a student’s popularity and their level of earnings later in life. As part of a wider long-term or longitudinal survey, High School students in the area were asked about their friendships, and then, 35 years later, how much they were earning.

The study asked students to nominate up to three best friends from their class. When analysing the data, the ISER team deemed those students who received high numbers of nominations as most popular. Those students who gave higher numbers of nominations were deemed more gregarious or out going.

The research showed that being gregarious had no effect on the students’ earnings later on, while being popular did. Every extra friend nomination was associated with a two per cent higher wage, and there was a 10 per cent earnings difference between the bottom fifth and top fifth of the popularity range.

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Steve Pudney said the work emphasized the critical importance of the early development of social skills alongside learning as a basis for economic success in adult life.

The research also found evidence that the early family environment and the type and size of school play a significant role in shaping friendship networks.

http://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/publications/working-papers/iser/2009-03.pdf

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