The ‘jerk premium’ for men’s earnings kicks in at this age

Nice guys may get the girl but they won’t get the higher salary, according to a new article from the Harvard Business Review. The article and research are by Miriam Gensowski, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen. In her study she looks at how childhood personality and education can impact lifetime earnings and men and women’s overall professional success.

Photo: Florian Pérennès on Unsplash

Nice guys may get the girl but they won’t get the higher salary, according to a new article from the Harvard Business Review. The article and research are by Miriam Gensowski, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen. In her study, she looks at how childhood personality and education can impact lifetime earnings and men and women’s overall professional success.

Her subjects were a group of 1,500 high-IQ individuals tracked from childhood to old age. It is depressing that she found that men who tend to be nicer, friendlier and more agreeable earn way less than, well, men who displayed more jerk-like tendencies. Interestingly, this jerk premium doesn’t start to exist until men reach the age of 30 years old.

The nice guy penalty

Gensowski wrote in HBR, “I found that in early years, earnings were no different for men with strong personality traits. At around age 30, a gap emerged, as men who were more conscientious, extroverted, and less agreeable started earning more. These gains from conscientiousness and extraversion (between $10-20,000 annually) fully unfolded in the prime working years, between the ages of 40 and 60.”

Based on her findings she concluded that a so-called nice guy who is in the bottom 20% when it comes to extroversion will earn around $600,000 less over their lifetime than a man who has all the same characteristics but is in the top 20% for extroversion and conscientiousness.

Her research also found that agreeable people in general, but especially men, are less likely to hold leadership positions. And as you may have guessed those conscientiousness and extroverted guys are more likely to become leaders.

Education is a factor

Education also plays a large role in this study as there was a significant subgroup of men who benefit from extraversion and conscientiousness twice as much as others if they have a graduate degree.

She wrote, “When comparing two men with a bachelor’s degree, the introvert (bottom 20% of extraversion) will earn about $290,000 less than his peer with average extraversion. This earnings difference increases to about $760,000 when we compare an introvert to someone at the average extraversion when both hold a Master’s or doctorate.”

So in other words, if you are a guy, even a nice one, you probably should start piping up in meetings more and disagreeing with your coworkers even on small things if you are nearing 30.

Meredith Lepore|is the Deputy Editor of Ladders and can be reached at mlepore@theladders.com.