Friday, August 16, 2013

The impact of bullying

If you do not manage to be part of the clique of "popular" people in school, or even worse are bullied, the conventional wisdom reassures you telling you that it is going to be all downhill from here on for the popular people, and that the bullied ones are going to be significantly more successful after school. I think the reason is that after high school, people split into the circles they really belong to, do not have to suffer other people they have nothing in common with and can really deploy their talents. The bulliers and popular people have lost their only edge, particular social interactions, once they get into the labor force and cannot progress.

Nick Drydakis tries to bring some empirical analysis to all this by using the Greek Behavioral Study dataset, which includes information about recollection about bullying, including frequency and intensity. It shows that at least part of the conventional wisdom (or at least how I perceived it) is wrong. Being bullied is associated with lower labor market outcomes, and it is hypothesized this is due to lower self-esteem which has also translated in lower academic achievement while in school (before age 18) and is perpetuated once in the labor force. Thus those whose mental health has been affected by bullying suffer significantly, and they seem to be more common than those who manage to brush it off and go on with life. However, the bullied ones achieve more human capital as measured by computer or English skills and higher degrees, but it looks like they do not managed to turn this into more employment or higher wages. The Greek labor market may be in part responsible for this. For example, the impact of bullying is particularly strong for homosexuals, and all those may not have a fair shot in the Greek labor market either. One should not read too much into a causality from bullying to outcomes here, as the author is careful to highlight. The study has nothing to say, however, about the bulliers and the popular people.

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