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August 02, 2010

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Matthew Sinclair

That link is interesting. In that it suggests that the beauty factor is only statistically significant in the US, whereas ugliness is significant more widely. So it's not about the beautiful getting what they want but the ugly not.

Also, the fact that the relationships appear to be stronger for men seems bizarre given that beauty is thought to matter far more for women in evolutionary terms.

Are the basic empirical starting points here reliable?

chris

One reason for the lower beauty premium for women (outside of China!) could be that there's a prejudice that beautiful women aren't intelligent, whereas there's no such prejudice against good-looking men. (In my experience, the prejudice is wholly wrong - but there are huge selection effects here). It's also possible that a selection effect biases the observed beauty premium down: really beautiful women don't need to work at all.

Luis Enrique

how do leftists and rightists react to this?

chris

@Luis - What I was thinking is that the Left will see it as evidence that the economy is unjust, in the sense that people are penalized for factors over which they have no control (ugliness). Others might add that this is especially so as our peceptions of beauty are social constructs.
The right might reply either by claiming that the beauty premium is really due to productivity differences, or by arguing that bad luck (ugliness) is no basis for redistribution.

patrick

Or you could argue that beauty or ugliness are not entirely a matter of luck, but something that people do have a certain degree of control over. (Myself, I'm not entirely at home with notions of free will and control, but that's another argument for another day).

It could even be that people who earn more are able to maintain their appearance to a greater degree and that the causal relationship between beauty and earnings is the wrong way round.

Luis Enrique

right... I'm not aware of much left-wing support for redistribution based on attractiveness. The only thing close to it come from the right (Greg Mankiw & height tax)

ortega

10 to 15%?
I've got no empirical evidence to support my view, but I doubt there is any ugly prostitute in the top segment of, let's say, the LA market. There, or you are quite attractive or you are out. People who pays good money wants it all.
But for those working cheaper markets, beauty is not such an advantage: their clients cannot or want not to pay more.
When I buy a cheap household equipment in IKEA I settle for a minimum of beauty. When I buy Alessi I ask much more for my money.
A Jag must be beautiful, a Daewoo must first do its job and looks come later.

ortega

Sorry, I just remembered another thing.
The WaPost Anne Applebaum explained this anectode.
She was having dinner in an expensive Moscou restaurant and she noticed how many beautiful women there were there. She comented to his russian friend how many had appeared in present day Russia compared to former times.
Now they have a market, was the answer she got.

RebelEconomist

I followed the link to this fascinating post from FT Alphaville.

A couple of points I would raise are:

(1) I would question whether it is right to control for personality. I suspect that there is some correlation between personality and appearance, because attractive people may well be more confident and happier.

(2) As for political attitudes to these findings, I assume that Chris means redistribution of wealth, but it occurs to me that a more direct solution might be to redistribute beauty by pairing up ugly and beautiful people!

But then I do blog under a nom de plume because, as someone once said, on the internet, no-one knows you're a dog!

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