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Just how much is a person's salary related to their cleverness? Credit: Adobe Stock Images

Are the highest paying, most prestigious jobs earned by people of great intelligence?

New research published in the European Sociological Review says smarts and higher earnings are related to an extent.

Researchers argue that there is a “plateauing of cognitive ability” among the biggest earners revealing that other factors come into play such as the resources available due to an individual’s family background and lucky breaks in careers that carry more weight than overall intelligence.

The Swedish study found that higher general intelligence was correlated to higher wages, but only up to about $57,300 a year. After that, the ability flattens out as wages continue to increase. The top 1% scored slightly worse on cognitive ability than those in the income strata below them.

The data was based off of a study involving nearly 60,000 Swedish male participants who completed a military conscription test between the ages of 18 or 19. When military service in Sweden was mandatory, nearly all native-born men enlisted were tested on cognitive ability. The study analyzed the earnings of men tested from 1971-1977 and 1980 until 1999. Women and immigrants were not included because military service was not mandatory for those groups.

The study’s authors also recognized other limitations to their work. For example, the smartest people may not opt for the highest paying job, but prefer more interesting or rewarding roles, or including non-cognitive abilities such as motivation levels or superior social skills (networking) that may help workers score higher paying-jobs.

To sum it up: Not all billionaire thought leaders should be put on a pedestal. The findings contribute to the growing debate about wealth inequality.

Read more about the study here.