Cameron Anderson of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-authors conducted a series of studies based on the hypothesis that higher sociometric status -- respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups, such as friendships, neighborhoods or athletic teams -- might make a difference in overall happiness.
In one study, the researchers surveyed 80 college students who participated in 12 different campus groups. Each student's sociometric status was calculated via a combination of peer ratings, self-reporting and the number of leadership positions.
The students also reported their total household income and answered questions related to their social well-being.
The findings, published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found after accounting for gender and ethnicity, sociometric status -- but not socioeconomic status -- predicted students' social well-being scores.
The researchers replicated the findings in three more studies.
One possible explanation is that people adapt, Anderson said.
"One of the reasons why money doesn't buy happiness is that people quickly adapt to the new level of income or wealth. Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly," Anderson said in a statement. "It's possible that being respected, having influence and being socially integrated just never gets old."