Monday, July 28, 2003

The profits of pulchritude 

Critical Mass mentions a paper by economist Daniel Hamermesh at UTexas and one of his students about beauty and student evaluations for professors. The full paper is here in .pdf. Hamermesh has actually done four papers on beauty and labor as part of his research agenda, which he describes here.
Do good-looking people earn more, how much more, and why? Is the effect the same for men and women? Does it mean employers discriminate against ugly workers? Do good looks make people more productive�can we ever distinguish between the effects of beauty, or some other characteristic, as discrimination or productivity? Does buying clothing and beauty treatments raise earnings power? Is hiring good-looking people a good strategy for companies? Should the government offer affirmative action programs for ugly people?
I've very quickly looked at the paper and note two things. First, the effect of beauty on student evaluations is stronger for men than for women. Second, the paper tried to consider age, but in footnote 5 they say that it "had essentially no impact". Well, even though they tried to get students to not consider age in rating faculty (see discussion at bottom of page 3) I find myself doubting that the ratings were clear of age bias. It would have been helpful to check whether age (or academic rank, which would come close) correlated with evaluations. They did note (again in fn. 5) that whether or not the faculty member was tenured had no impact on evaluations.

Invisible Adjunct thinks that Hamermesh doesn't understand how to make oneself up, but it should be noted (as wasn't in the article) that his student co-author is female. Oh, how sexist of me!?!