School Popularity and Success: How Are They Correlated?

November 5, 2012 · Posted in Social Interactions 

School Popularity and Success Are More Intertwined Than You Think

Recent discussion about school popularity and success, the correlation between the two, and where it will likely lead students in their future lives has been a topic of discussion lately thanks to a new report issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The study, which you can find here, goes on to point out that those who were among the most popular students in high school often go on to earn up to 10 percent more than their peers over the next forty years.

This really discredits the idea that the nerds will inherit the earth, doesn’t it?

It’s something that, in a way, makes sense, but I feel like it’s worthy of further discussion nonetheless.

So keep reading to learn more about school popularity and success, what it potentially means, and what advice one might be able to take from all of this, regardless of age.


What Does School Popularity Mean?

Whether you’ve been out of high school for years or you’re currently there now, popularity is probably something that you have had to deal with at one point or another.

You’re probably familiar with tropes you’ve seen in various movies and television shows where high school students are separated into easily identified cliques; athletes/jocks, nerds/geeks, preps, Goths, and other longstanding clich├ęs that have transcended the years.

While real life is almost never so clear cut, people who were athletic and social tended to be much more popular in various media than those who weren’t, and it’s in that respect that many of the stories we’ve seen over the years are at least partially correct.

Because the NBER determined the popularity of the students in its studies by seeing how many people named those students as friends, it was concluded that those who were the most sociable were the most popular and, in the long run, the most successful in life.

It’s important to keep in mind that this study was done with young men who graduated high school in 1957, so there would be a definite cultural difference with students who graduated today.

Likewise, the study didn’t make any note of what social groups these students belonged to in their school, so it doesn’t necessarily discredit the idea that the super-smart will be the ones who are most successful when it comes to school popularity and success in the future.

Still, the underlying lesson that this study leaves is one that many people emphasize as children grow into teens and then into adults: Being sociable is just as important as being smart.

We’ve all heard the saying that knowing the right people is just as important, if not more so, than having the skills to getting a job or advancing in life in any other way.

But how true is that?

If the study is to be believed, it’s absolutely true. The men in the study ostensibly had no trouble relating to a number of people and there’s no reason to believe that skill got anything but sharper as they navigated the adult world, but are things different today.

The evidence from the NBER study could be purely anecdotal or, as stated earlier result today could be completely different thanks to things like cultural shifts and changes in the way people relate to each socially.

Think about how much the internet has changed the playing field when it comes to interaction and you’ll see what I mean.

There’s no denying that being sociable is an important skill to have at all levels of life, but is it as important in getting ahead today as it was in the middle of the twentieth century?

Do school popularity and success go hand in hand now just as much as they did back then?

What are your theories?

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