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Confirmed: Nice Guys Finished Last

Group of children (8-10) in sports kits celebrating
Photograph by Getty Images

The scrapbooks I bought for both of my daughters to commemorate my pregnancies and their births had a page in it where I was meant to write my hopes and dreams for them, but for the longest time I left it blank. Verbalizing my aspirations for my infant girls proved to be too daunting.

That is, until it occurred to me that I wanted my daughters to be just like Tina Fey. I didn’t necessarily want them to need to wear black-rimmed glasses or be on the receiving end of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor (although worse things could happen, I suppose). But I realized that most of the nerds I knew growing up — the kids who weren’t consumed with popularity at all costs — were able to enjoy more meaningful pursuits starting at a younger age.

As it turns out, however, if my girls end up taking my advice, they will be worse off in the long run, with Tina Fey the prize cheese standing alone in a sea of less successful nerds.

According to the The Washington Post, researchers are now working on the theory that popular kids in high school out-earn their geekier counterparts “even decades after graduation.”

A survey of over 10,000 men and women who graduated from a Wisconsin high school in 1957 was used to make the determination, and the social characteristics and career achievements of respondents were studied in follow-ups continuously through the years.

Popular kids end up earning 2 to 10 percent more than their non-popular classmates, according to the study. The researchers owed the difference in part to the connections made leading to more opportunities later in life, but also to the fact that if you’re well-liked when you’re young, chances are you retain those likable qualities later on.

Which isn’t to say that less-popular people can’t be happy or fulfilled, of course, but it now it just makes it that much harder to imagine how I’ll eventually convince my girls that it’s OK if they aren’t invited to sit at the cool table in the cafeteria.

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