The Type Of Kid In College Who Earns More Money Later In Life Than Even Their Nerdy Peers, According To Research

It pays to be a very specific type of student.

Office team high-fiving fizkes / Shutterstock

It might be a common misconception that nerds in school will become more successful than anyone else, but a recent study reveals that a different kind of college kid will make more money.

There will be no revenge for the nerds when you find out that the ones who will actually end up making the most amount of money in their careers are none other than the antithesis of nerd existence — college jocks.


Ivy League jocks will make $220,000 more in lifetime wages when compared to non-athletes.

A recent study, published in October 2023, revealed that Ivy League athletes will become far more financially successful than Ivy League non-athletes. The study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research and gathered data from 1970 to 2021 in order to examine the numbers.

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The NBER gathered data from over 400,000 graduates — men and women combined — from 44 different colleges. The data showed that college athletes earned 3.4% more over their careers than non-athletic students. They brought home more than $220,000 in cumulative wages comparatively.


study finds that college athletes out-earn non-athletes later in lifePhoto: Mica Asato / Pexels

They figured this out by examining both post-graduate education and career choices as well as career outcomes. Ivy League athletes were more likely to get MBAs from elite institutions and go into fields like finance or business, and they were less likely to pursue an M.D., a Ph.D., or an advanced STEM degree.

NBER was also able to gather that sporty grads had an easier time climbing the corporate ladder, judging by the fact that 10.4% of athletes held top-level management positions compared to 7.9% of non-athletes.


It’s also worth noting that all athletes across the board were more successful than their non-athletic counterparts, not just athletes from high socioeconomic backgrounds.

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This isn’t the only study that shows athletes end up making more money.

While this study from NBER examined Ivy League athletes, two studies published in June 2014 in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies revealed that former high school athletes went on to make more money than some of their counterparts.

In these studies, there were signs that pointed to the reason why.


study finds that college athletes out-earn non-athletes later in lifePhoto: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Study 1, as they refer to it, showed that there were significantly higher expectations on athletes to have more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect skills when compared to their non-athletic peers.

Study 2 gathered biodata to confirm whether or not these anticipations were misplaced — and they weren’t. Men who participated in varsity-level high school sports demonstrated higher levels of leadership and enjoyed higher-status careers.


There’s no telling why exactly athletes might end up more successful than their non-athletic peers. Perhaps it has something to do with the soft skills they learn from being a part of organized sports, or maybe it’s because of the expectations placed upon them by society.

Either way, being an athlete seems to pay off in the long run.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor for YourTango who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics.