John List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. This guest post is part a series adapted from their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. List appeared in our recent podcast “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten“; the post below offers a fuller description of an experiment discussed in that podcast.
On a chilly Saturday afternoon in December, 2005, Jeanne, a bright, energetic junior at East Carolina University (ECU), trotted up the walk of a suburban home in Pitt County, N.C. Jeanne wore a shirt emblazoned with the name “ECU Natural Hazards Mitigation Research Center.” She also wore a badge with her photograph, name, and solicitation permit number on it. She knocked, and a middle-aged man opened the door.
“Yes?” he said, eyeing her.
“Hi,” she said, smiling brightly. “My name is Jeanne. I’m an ECU student visiting Pitt County households today on behalf of the newly formed ECU Natural Hazards Mitigation Research Center. Would you like to make a contribution today?” It’s probably safe to say that the last thing the middle-aged man had on his mind was the possibility of Jeanne being a double agent. Yes, she was really trying to raise money for the center. But she was also part of a bigger experiment involving dozens of college students knocking on the doors of 5,000 households in Pitt County. Read More »
We’ve blogged before about the influence that beauty can have on earnings and career choices. But what about the shape of a face? A new paper in the British Journal of Psychology looks at the faces of U.K. executives. Researchers Shuaa Alrajih and Jamie Ward found that CEOs have greater than average facial width-to-height ratios. The abstract:
The relative proportion of the internal features of a face (the facial width-to-height ratio, FWH) has been shown to be related to individual differences in behavior in males, specifically competitiveness and aggressiveness. In this study, we show that the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the leading UK businesses have greater FWHs than age- and sex-matched controls. We demonstrate that perceivers, naive as to the nature of the stimuli, rate the faces of CEOs as higher in dominance or success, and that ratings of dominance or success are themselves correlated with the FWH ratio. We find no association with other inferred traits such as trustworthiness, attraction or aggression. The latter is surprising given previous research demonstrating a link between FWH and ratings of aggression. We speculate that the core association may be between FWH and drive for dominance or power, but this can be interpreted as aggression only in particular circumstances (e.g., when the stimuli are comprised of faces of young, as opposed to middle-aged, men).
A recent paper (full PDF here) by Young Hoon Lee and Seung Chan Ahn makes a clever point about occupations in which people are paid for a main activity and a secondary area where success depends on productivity in the main activity. If success in the latter also depends on some other characteristic, people who are well-endowed with that characteristic will invest more in the skills needed to be productive in the main activity: the incentives created by that synergy will spill over to earnings in the main activity.
Their example is the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Better-looking golfers get lower scores (perform better) — but only going from average-lookers to the best-looking. Below the average, there’s no effect of differences in looks on tournament scores. That makes sense — you probably won’t get more endorsement opportunities if you’re average-looking instead of bad-looking. Although not golf, one might call this the Sharapova Effect. Are there other labor markets, or other activities, in which a similarly unusual synergy exists??
Our friend and contributor Dan Hamermesh was featured on The Daily Show last night, in a piece about ugly people. Hamermesh has done extensive research on the economic disadvantages of being unattractive. His most recent book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, shows how all kinds of economic benefits flow toward physical beauty, from higher salaries, to better loan rates, to attractive, educated spouses.
In the bit, Hamermesh and Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones have some fun discussing whether “uglo-Americans” should be given special legal protection. Read More »
Take a wild guess: How much do you think fashion models make? It’s one of those professions that unless you know someone, or work in the biz, there’s not a lot of information out there to have a good view into. Judging by models’ perceived glamour and high society status, not to mention the cut-throat competition they deal with, you might think it’s a lot. I think I did. Which is why this line from a TNR review of the new book Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model struck me as amazing:
The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.
This week we solicited your questions for Dan Hamermesh, a regular Freakonomics contributor, and author of the new book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.
A lot of you chimed in with thoughtful questions about the relationship between success and beauty. Hamermesh has obliged by answering a great many of them, which you’ll find below. As always, thanks to everyone for participating. Read More »
This week, we’re soliciting your questions for Dan Hamermesh about his new book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. To stir up some ideas and discussion, here are a couple tables from the book illustrating how perceived beauty breaks down along gender, and also the income premium attractive people enjoy over their average-looking counterparts. Read More »