Behavior in High School Accurately Predicts Future Income and Success

I’m sure you remember the days when your mom or dad seemed like they were always asking if you had done your homework or studied for your test. Believe it or not, they were only looking out for your best interest and wanted you to be successful.

The American Psychological Association recently published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The research shows that your behavior in high school can accurately predict your income and occupational success as an adult.

Responsible students, who were able to maintain their interest levels and develop good reading and writing skills had an easier time of achieving good grades while they were in high school. Which happens to be an excellent predictor of the level of success in your occupation that occurs decades later. The research shows that it doesn’t matter how high your IQ is and that your parent’s wealth is not a deciding factor either.

The study’s lead author Marion Spengler, Ph.D., of the University of Tübingen, said in a press release “Educational researchers, political scientists and economists are increasingly interested in the traits and skills that parents, teachers, and schools should foster in children to enhance chances of success later in life. Our research found that specific behaviors in high school have long-lasting effects for one’s later life.”

The American Institutes for Research initially collected the data from 346,660 U.S. high school students way back in 1960. Eleven years later they received follow-up data from 81,912 of those students, and then 50 years later they were able to obtain more data from 1,952 of them.

During the high school phase of data collecting, they measured things like the student’s behaviors, personality traits, cognitive abilities, parental socioeconomic status and demographic factors.

Then the follow-up surveys went on to measure their educational attainment, income, and occupation.

The responsible students who showed an interest in school and were proficient in reading and writing were able to complete a higher level of college education and were able to land more prestigious jobs both 11 and 50 years after they finished their high school education.

At the 50 year mark, all of the different factors pointed to a higher overall income level.

All of these effects stayed the same even when the researchers controlled for varying factors like cognitive ability, personality traits, and their parent’s income levels.

Of course, the researchers weren’t surprised by the data but the reliable, consistent behaviors that students showed while they were in high school, accurately predicted how successful they would be later in life. The responsible students who took their studies seriously were more likely to do well in college and able to earn a degree.

Data from the Current Population Survey done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who were 25 years or older that had a bachelors degree had an unemployment rate of just 2.4 percent in August of 2017. The people who had some college or an associate degree had an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent. Workers that graduated high school but did not attend college had an unemployment rate of  5.1 percent. The workers who did not have a high school diploma had the highest unemployment rate of 6.0 percent.

As you can see from those statistics, the students that completed higher levels education were less likely to be unemployed and were more successful financially in their chosen career fields.

However, not all people who have a degree are working in their field of choice. A recent article states that “Undergraduates with untempered potential do not fully utilize their cognitive skills and end up in underemployment as 44 percent of recent college graduates in New York find themselves.”

Being ‘underemployed’ simply means that they are working in jobs that do not normally require a degree and paying off all those student loans can be quite frustrating when you don’t even end up in your desired career. PBS recently published an article that states after decades of telling students the only way to get ahead was with a bachelor’s degree, has left us with a dire need for more tradespeople.

However, this correlates the same with the student behaviors and characteristics. Whether they go to college or trade school, the students who were more interested and responsible during their high school years had a higher chance of success in the long run.

According to Spengler “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.”

What do our readers think about this information? Have you noticed that any of these statistics or facts mirror your own high school experience compared to where you are at in your career now? We would love to hear your opinions and thoughts on this subject.

Author

Bethany Vincent

Bethany Vincent is a writer from La Grange Kentucky who has loved playing with words since she first learned to speak. She lives with her teenage son and adopted dog daughter in a cute, yellow house with a picket fence. During college at the University of Louisville, she could be found at the writing center most of the time and her main areas of focus were literature, creative writing, and visual arts. Bethany has contributed articles and created content for many websites and blogs during her writing career. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, juggle-dancing, yoga, photography, cooking and singing along with her favorite songs while in the car driving. In the future, she plans to finish writing her first book and hopes to travel to all the beautiful places that she’s read about.

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