People who make lots of friends at school tend to go on to earn higher salaries in later life, according to new research.
Individuals who reported having a large number of close friends in secondary school enjoyed earnings ten per cent higher than their counterparts - with an even greater boost for those who said they were 'at the heart of things' when they were young, the Independent reports.
The findings highlight the importance of extracurricular activities and other ways of promoting social interaction, in addition to academic work.
"Our research confirms that the impact of education and school goes far beyond the knowledge that one acquires," the researchers wrote. "More attention should be devoted during childhood and adolescence to the development of social skills, for example through social activities and clubs."
Authors Lucia Barbone and Peter Dolton from the University of Sussex said disadvantaged children could have a better chance of improving their prospects if they were encouraged to develop social skills.
The study, entitled Key Players: High School Networking Effects on Earnings, was presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference yesterday.
It was based on data from AddHealth - an American survey following the fortunes of high school students through to adult life, which included information on their friendship groups.
The researchers discovered that, while popularity at school was linked to earnings 13 years later, an even bigger influence was whether children were 'key players' with the ability to influence others.
Social skills also have a strategic feature, the researchers said, involving the ability to connect with other key players inside the network.
The study concluded that although cognitive factors such as intelligence, memory and reasoning were still important in securing a well-paid job, social skills such as sociability, charm, personality and motivation also played a significant role.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels