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Shi study on long-run returns to adolescent popularity

May 31, 2016

Most Likely to Succeed: Long-Run Returns to Adolescent Popularity

Ying Shi & James Moody

Social Currents, May 2016

Ying Shi headshot

Ying Shi

Sociological explanations for economic success tend toward measures of embeddedness in long-standing social institutions, such as race and gender, or personal skills represented mainly by educational attainment. Instead, the authors seek a distinctively social foundation for success by investigating the long-term association between high school popularity and income.

Using rich longitudinal data, the authors find a clear and persistent association between the number of friendship nominations received and adult income, even after accounting for the mediating influences of diverse personal, family, and work characteristics. This skill is distinct from conventional personality measures such as the Big Five and persists long into adulthood. The authors hypothesize that popularity encapsulates a socioemotional skill recognized by peers as the practice of being a good friend rather than an indicator of social status.