(IDEAS.TIME) — “When you get to be our age, you all of a sudden realize that you are being ruled by people you went to high school with,” noted the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut. “You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing but high school.”

I thought of Vonnegut’s observation after I read a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled simply “Popularity.” Individuals’ social status in high school has a “sizable effect” on their earnings as adults, reported lead author Gabriella Conti of the University of Chicago: “We estimate that moving from the 20th to 80th percentile of the high-school popularity distribution yields a 10% wage premium nearly 40 years later.”

Conti’s study is part of a wave of research looking at how our social experiences in school connect to our lives after graduation. “We’ve all wondered at times if high school determines who we become as adults, and now we have the empirical data to test that notion,” says Pamela Herd, an associate professor of public affairs and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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