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The Learning Success Blog

50 Year study: Behaviour influences income more than IQ    

Posted by Peter Barnes on April 4, 2018 at 6:40 PM

New research shows behaviour in high school is a stronger predictor than IQ or socio-economic background of better jobs and higher income.  

Serious male student writing in a laboratoryThe research has been published by the American Psychological Association based on data collected from 346,660 U.S. high school students in 1960 and follow up research 11 and 50 years later.

The 1960 high school phase measured a variety of student behaviours and attitudes as well as personality traits, cognitive abilities, parental socioeconomic status and demographic factors.

The follow-up surveys measured overall educational attainment, income and occupational prestige.

The research report said, “Being a responsible student, showing an interest in school and having fewer problems with reading and writing were all significantly associated with greater educational attainment and finding a more prestigious job both 11 years and 50 years after high school. These factors were also all associated with higher income at the 50-year mark”.

Most of the positive effects of the high school behaviours remained even when researchers controlled for parental socioeconomic status, cognitive ability and other broad personality traits such as conscientiousness.

High school behaviours have long lasting effects

"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," said lead author Dr Marion Spengler. "Our research found that specific behaviours in high school have long-lasting effects for one's later life."

Most educators will not be surprised that students who are responsible, are interested in school and are able to read and write do well in careers after leaving school. That’s because these students are more likely to have better educational achievements.

But the finding from this massive 50 year study that these behaviours outweigh IQ is a reminder how important behaviour and social/emotional skills are for life success. 

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