What has long been a cliché is now gaining scientific evidence: high school never ends. An in-depth piece in New York Magazine explains:

It has long been known, for instance, that male earning potential correlates rather bluntly with height. But it was only in 2004 that a trio of economists thought to burrow a little deeper and discovered, based on a sample of thousands of white men in the U.S. and Britain, that it wasn’t adult height that seemed to affect their subjects’ wages; it was their height at 16. (In other words, two white men measuring five-foot-eleven can have very different earning potential in the same profession, all other demographic markers being equal, just because one of them was shorter at 16.)

You also store your most vivid memories during this time (from ages 15 to 25), which can make traumatic experiences all the more traumatizing.

These are people in a large box without any clear, predetermined way of sorting out status,” says Robert Faris, a sociologist at UC Davis who’s spent a lot of time studying high-school aggression. “There’s no natural connection between them.” Such a situation, in his view, is likely to reward aggression. Absent established hierarchies and power structures (apart from the privileges that naturally accrue from being an upperclassman), kids create them on their own, and what determines those hierarchies is often the crudest common-­denominator stuff—looks, nice clothes, prowess in sports—­rather than the subtleties of personality.

In other words, you are already poised biologically to be deeply impressed by experiences around you at this time while, simultaneously, you form your first sense of identity, and then you’re thrown into a hard, judgmental place. Oof.

The insecurities we form in high school are often the ones we carry with us later, even when those no longer have any basis in reality (if they ever did at all — further in the article they discuss just how skewed teenagers perception of other’s feelings towards them are). 

Read the rest here.

  • Bob Tabor

    No, I didn’t read the original article, but that won’t stop me from commenting. 🙂

    In general, sure … the insecurities you form during adolescence affects you the rest of your life.

    However … as in all things regarding “lies, damn lies and statistics” … “Correlation doesn’t equal causation”. I’m thinking of two or three gentlemen I personally know in corporate America who are / were less than 5″6′ who are extremely confident and successful (without veering into the realm of the “Napoleon Complex”). I suspect their height in high school did not go unnoticed by cruel peers. However, I do suspect parenting played a large role in their self esteem.

    Also, there’s a disproportionate number of shorter individuals in the music industry who are extremely successful. Perhaps in that circle, emotional pain was their friend. Or, in other words: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

    • Sasha

      Hey Bob, I definitely suggest you read the article then — the anecdote you share is a point the article makes; that those gentlemen might have been considered “average” height during high school and so don’t carry any “napoleon complexes.” It’s well worth the read!

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