Psst, it’s not your IQ
High school is going to haunt you.
Your behavior in high school predicts both your future income and your career success, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Specifically, students who showed a greater interest in school and were more responsible students ended up in more prestigious careers and thus making more money, both 11 and 50 years after graduation. This was true regardless of their IQ, parents’ income or personality traits. (Having fewer problems in reading and writing also predicted future income and career success.)
“Our research found that specific behaviors in high school have long-lasting effects for one’s later life,” concludes lead author Dr. Marion Spengler of the University of Tübingen. The study further added that “things that happen in specific periods of one’s life may play out in ways far more significant than we expect.”
The study analyzed data from 346,660 U.S. high school students in 1960, along with follow-up data from 81,912 of those students 11 years later and 1,952 of them 50 years later. Interest in school and responsibility were measured by asking students questions like whether they paid attention in class, kept up with assignments, did more than the minimum on assignments; and more.
“This is the first longitudinal study to suggest that student characteristics and behavioral patterns in school are related to real-life outcomes after controlling for SES, IQ, and broad personality traits,” the authors note.
Spengler believes that much of this can be explained by later educational attainment. “Student characteristics and behaviors were rewarded in high school and led to higher educational attainment, which in turn was related to greater occupational prestige and income later in life,” she said.“This study highlights the possibility that certain behaviors at crucial periods could have long-term consequences for a person’s life.”
So can parents help set their kids up for a more lucrative career? Yes! Spengler believes that providing kids with ample opportunities to develop an interest in school and to learn how to behave responsibly in the classroom might be able to help. This could mean making sure you communicate with the teachers to learn what your kids are learning and talking to them about that, modeling at home for them how to behave at school, and getting tutors or other help for children in both reading and writing, so they can excel at both.
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