Many a nerd has taken solace in the fact that the popular kids will one day bitterly rue not spending more time with their books, particularly when their geekier counterparts are swimming in dough and driving Ferraris. But that, sadly, is not the case, according to a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It turns out that 40 years after graduation, the most popular students earn about 10 percent more than the least popular, says Michael S. Derby at The Wall Street Journal:
Popularity pays because those who learn to play the game in high school are figuring out what they need to know to succeed when they enter the workplace. The report suggests schools may want to join their academic mission with one that helps students build their social skills...
High school popularity is an important concept because it is at that time that students are increasingly turning their attention from older authority figures to one another. The students that fare well under this consideration are starting to show the skills that will serve them well when they move out into the world and fend for themselves.
To gauge popularity, the NBER used data culled by the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has been tracking a batch of 10,000 former students in Wisconsin who graduated in 1957, says Sarah Kliff at The Washington Post:
Back in 1957, these high school students were asked to list three people they considered their closest friends. Those who had their names written down the most were deemed the most popular: They’re the ones that many people consider close friends.
However, "the report doesn't delve too deeply into personality traits, sidestepping the common trope of popular-guy-as-bully," says Tiffany Hsu at The Los Angeles Times. Indeed, "smarter students, as well as those who hailed from a warm family environment, tended to rank high on the social totem pole." So maybe geeks can take heart after all.