How much is popularity in high school worth?

Steve Levitt reports:

They find that each extra close friend in high school is associated
with earnings that are 2 percent higher later in life after controlling
for other factors. While not a huge effect, it does suggest that either
that a) the same factors that make you popular in high school help you
in a job setting, or b) that high-school friends can do you favors
later in life that will earn you higher wages.

Read his caveats as well.  I would like to know more about the shape of the distribution.  I would think that the most popular people achieve only mediocre results, whereas the very high earners are either loners (but not necessarily “unpopular” in the sense of being disliked) or had above-average popularity but not extreme popularity.  Too much popularity too early produces the feeling that other things will come easily, too easily.

Personally I still receive benefits and favors from high school friends and I once wrote a book with one.


Tyler, it's not the time to discuss popularity. It's time to be outraged.



March 5, 2009 --
There was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, boldly testifying Tuesday before Rep. Charlie Rangel's Ways & Means Committee - promising that the Obama administration intends to propose "a series of legislative and enforcement measures to reduce . . . tax evasion and avoidance."

Did he look Chairman Rangel in the eye when he said this?

Can he look himself in the eye at the shaving mirror each morning?

A crackdown on "tax evasion and avoidance"? Oh, the irony.

Only after he was nominated to Treasury did Geithner pay some $40,000 in taxes he blew off while working for the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2004.

And Rangel's famous tax troubles are even now the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation - laggard though it may be.

Probity for thee, but not for me?

Damned straight.

The latest name on the lengthening list of Team Obama tax chiselers is US trade representative nominee, Ron Kirk, formerly the mayor of Dallas.

He owes some $10,000, primarily from speaking fees, which he's now agreed to pay.

Then there were Health and Human Services pick Tom Daschle and "performance czar" nominee Nancy Killefer. Both withdrew over tardy tax issues - though it's not clear why they had to leave while Kirk gets to stay.

Geithner's grasp on his job we do understand, though: Somebody's got to go after the tax evaders and avoiders.

Sort of like how OJ went after the real killers . . .

I definitely think A is the right answer as opposed to B. Social skills are very valuable and no matter how smart you are it is worthless without being able to rally others around your ideas.

I doubt highschool connections have all that much value. What are the odds that you will even end up in the same field/city and that your circle of friends will even be sucessful.

I do agree that from my limited sample it is the moderately popular smart kids that have made the big bucks from my high school.

There's a third possibility too:

High school popularity instills a self-confidence in people that last throughout the rest of their career. People with higher self confidence are more likely to seek promotion, start businesses, etc.

"Number of people that consider you close friends" is not the usual definition of popularity. Rather, I think popularity usually refers to normal friends and loose contacts. Because close friendship is usually reciprocal, I would think this isn't even necessarily picking up variation in the number of close friends. One way to be named by more people under the experimental system would be to have more than 3 close friends, but where some of those have only about 3 close friends, so they would all name you. That's probably the kind of thing the study wanted to pick up. But if you have people with 0-2 close friends, they're going to add 1-3 non-close friends. I'm not sure what they would do. They could name looser friends, and now we are adding popularity to the measurement mix, or they could add people they want to be friends with, or who knows.

Anyway, it's vaguely interesting, but I wish I understood the connection with homophily better. That factor makes me think "if you are surrounded more similar people, you have more friends in high school, and later on, independently, will be more accepted and respected in your larger community and workplaces".

And I thought making friends was all about....making friends and having fun. Alterior motive friendship. That sorta reminds me about that saying: friends can be like the shadows, and are only visible when the sunshines. No need for friends like that. Nor those that have an expectation of some higher meaning in future life.

Dave and Sam have addressed what I was thinking.

Large # of close friends /= popularity.

He needs to restate his suggestions of what the correlation may actually mean.

Seems to me that if you had an above average # of close friends you are adept at building strong interpersonal relationships, which would seem to be a great benefit in a business environment.


"Too much popularity too early produces the feeling that other things will come easily, too easily."

Sounds like bias. Is it?

A similar lesson is learned from looking at politician's yearbook photos, 15 of which can be found here:

Of note: all of the politicians (with the possible exception of Palin) were quite good-looking back in the day. It does not take a genius to imagine why that would tend to lead to the people skills necessary to reach the top echelon of politics.

Anecdotally, the most popular people in my graduating class turned out to be less successful than the majority of the class members. Most of them "peaked" in high school and never recovered from the shock of being a nobody after graduation.

(a) seems like common sense and (b) seems laughably implausible

I would have to disagree with popular people being confident, on average I would say that most popular people are more nervous and less confident than the average person, for the fear of losing their popularity. I was on the prom court/ and 1st string football player in highschool and then turned into a math geek in college, I was much more confident in college as a math geek than a popular jock in college.

The most popular people in my graduating class turned out to be less successful than the majority of the class members. Most of them "peaked" in high school and never recovered from the shock of being a nobody after graduation.

They simply think of approval and general recognition. i only skimmed the paper, But technically speaking the authors' usage seemed okay.

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