New Study Finds That People With Both Maths And Social Skills Earn More Money

Are you good at maths? Do you get along well with other people? If you can answer “yes” to both of these questions, your earning potential is higher than ever before.

A recent study from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that individuals who possess both strong maths and social skills saw higher earnings over a 20-year period than individuals with only one set of skills, reports the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, the return on these skills is significantly greater today than it was 30 years ago.

Screen Shot 2014 09 02 at 5.30.11 PMUCSB/Catherine WeinbergerMean annual earnings among men ages 24-29 in 1979, 1989, and 1999, by occupational skill requirement (Census data).

To reach this conclusion, the study authors compared the earnings over time of white, male high-school seniors from the class of 1972 with those from the class of 1992, specifically looking at maths scores from standardized tests during their senior years, participation in sports, leadership roles, and individual earnings seven years after graduation.

The researchers looked at only white men because their test scores and participation levels remained stable over time, whereas education and access to extracurriculars changed over this period for women and people of colour. They also used participation in sports and clubs as a measure of social skills because these activities typically involve teamwork and communication, and provided a stable metric to study effects over time.

High maths scores, leadership positions, and a college education all resulted in higher earnings between 1979 and 1999. However, “the trend over time in the earnings premium was strongest among those who were both good at maths and engaged in high-school sports or leadership activities,” HBR reports.

Simply put, being good at maths or working well with others was linked with higher-than-average earnings, but possessing both qualities resulted in even higherearnings.

While the authors don’t speculate on why this might true, it makes sense. Having both technical smarts and people savvy would likely help in attaining a job, negotiating a salary, and standing out as leadership material. Further, we know STEM-based occupations — those in science, technology, engineering, and maths — are typically among the highest-paying and most in-demand jobs today.

In fact, a 2014 report from the Department of Education found that college grads with STEM-related degrees earn an average of $US65,000, while their non-STEM counterparts make about $US15,500 less.

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