Most likely to succeed: Long-run returns to adolescent popularity

Ying Shi, James Moody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


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, we seek a distinctively social foundation for success by investigating the long-term association between high school popularity and income. Using rich longitudinal data, we 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. We 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-33
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Currents
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Popularity
  • Social networks
  • Socioemotional skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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