Sociable school children earning higher salaries

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A report by the University of Sussex shows that school children with more friends earn more as adults, so  highlighting the long-term financial benefits of being sociable.

The findings confirm that the impact of education and school goes far beyond the knowledge that pupils acquire.

While cognitive factors such as intelligence, memory and reasoning are important, other factors such as personality, sociability, charm, energy and motivation become increasingly significant in later life.

Even more important than the size of a child’s friendship group was whether they were perceived as a “key player”, with the ability to influence others. This advantage was particularly true for white and male students, as well as for those who went on to earn a relatively low salary. The results therefore have implications for social policy, as they suggest that young people who are less well off have a better chance of escaping poverty if they develop good social skills.

The main findings show:

Children who make lots of friends at school go on to earn higher salaries later in life.

People who reported having a high number of close friends in secondary school later enjoyed 10 per cent higher earnings than their peers.

The popularity of the students at school had a positive impact on their earnings 13 years after they graduated. Even more important than the size of a child’s friendship group was whether they were perceived as a “key player” with the ability to influence others.

Determinants of social skills have been identified using three categories: individual characteristics, such as age and physical appearance, behaviours, such as participating in clubs and activities, and school characteristics, such as school and class size.

Family is found to have only a small impact on relational abilities.

School is the place where children can enrich and increase these social skills. Therefore, educational policies are likely to affect not only cognitive abilities of students, but also their non-cognitive skills.

This suggests that investments in after school club and activities, as well as reducing class size can favour the development on relational abilities of students.

Popular kids at high school are not necessarily the brightest in connecting with others. Rather, what really matters is the extent to which the individual is at the heart of things - in other words, whether one is a key player. This effect is particularly strong for low-paying jobs. We do not find evidence of a signifcant impact of the network measures on employment probability andbno signifcant effect of degree and in-degree.

These results confirm the importance of non-cognitive skills for both educational and labour market outcomes. Classroom ability grouping seem to positively influence the relational abilities of students and do not seem to bring any substantial effect on adult life outcomes.

The results have social policy implications as they suggest that young people who are less well off have a better chance of escaping poverty if they develop good social skills.

The study concluded that while cognitive factors such as intelligence, memory and reasoning were still important in securing a well-paid job, other factors such as personality, sociability, charm and motivation were equally vital.

Sussex researchers, Lucia Barbone and Professor Peter Dolton, said: “Social skills cannot simply be defined as ‘having friends’, but include a strategic feature as well. Having social skills means being able to connect with other key players inside the network. In some sense, this can be seen as a learning process that one is unlikely to lose in the future.”

School Leadership Today
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