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New Study Reveals Popularity in High School is Indicator of Future Success

Is the homecoming queen destined for a better future?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

October 25, 2012

New Study Reveals Popularity in High School is Indicator of Future Success
Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga both admit to being picked on, or deemed “losers,” by the popular crowd in high school. And we all know now how disliked Mark Zuckerberg was during his Harvard days. However, all three have lived out a modern-day Revenge of the Nerds storyline, making millions and claiming celebrity status all over the world. It’s a classic, fantastical scenario: those on the lower end of the social totem pole in high school grow up to live in the big cities, work in an industry they love and simply put, thrive. Many high schoolers in the same position today may find themselves daydreaming about their future success during Calculus, but is this “loser” to lavish lifestyle realistic? A new study says “no.” In fact, the study reveals that life really is “one life long popularity contest,” as TIME puts it.

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The National Bureau of Economic Research tracked 10,000 Wisconsin students from 1957 to the early 1990s as part of a study to measure popularity in high school with future successes in life. According to TIME, researchers asked the high school students at the time to name their three best friends. Using these individual lists, the researchers tallied which names were mentioned most and which weren’t, therefore coming to the conclusion of who was “popular” in high school.
As the researchers followed the former high school students, they found that “those in the top quintile of the “high-school popularity distribution” earned 10% more than those in the lowest quintile nearly 40 years after graduation,” reports TIME.

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So why do these researchers assume that popularity in high school leads to future successes in life? They claim that it all has to do with social skills, as the report sums up: “[I]nteractions within the group of classmates provide the bridge to the adult world as they train individual personalities to be socially adequate for the successful performance of their adult roles. … It is the productive skill itself that is rewarded in the labor market, rather than friendships per se.” Students today, however, should really take this study with a grain of salt. After all, TIME points out that this study was only looking at males during the Mad Men era, i.e. when society was ruled by fraternal boys’ clubs.

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But there is a takeaway here for modern-day students: be nice. Instead of using high school as a time to get ahead and rule the school, look at it as training for the real world. Foster good relationships with your peers and mentors. Don’t be a bully; respect everyone. Because in this day in age you never know who could end up being the next Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga or Mark Zuckerberg. Do you think that these study results are accurate? Why or why not?

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