Sunday, February 27, 2011

Beauty in the academic labour market

The labour market returns to "beauty" have been studied by various authors. However it is not something that you might expect to be a feature of academia. But Hot or Not: How appearance affects earnings and productivity in academia by Sen, Voia & Woolley demonstrates a surprisingly large wage premium to academics judged "hot" by students in the well known site. Why? Because they're worth it, I suppose. No sniggering at the back, please.


Rob Gillanders said...

Yes! I'm gonna put a lot less effort into my thesis now.

Liam Delaney said...

I suppose the main flaw is that the assignment of chilli-peppers is hardly an ideal scale (the authors acknowledge that and do their best with the data). It is likely that "hot" means a range of things not just physical appearance, and perhaps including things like personality, charisma, warmth, likeability etc., all of which could be helpful to form networks, do well in interviews etc.,

Kevin Denny said...

Rob: you may not have noticed the strategy pursued by academics "Get the PhD first. Then let yourself go."
Liam: No. Hot means hot.

Liam Delaney said...

Kevin - not spending more time on this but dont get your point. To quote the authors

"Our results are not a pure measure of the effect of “beauty” on either academic salaries or professional productivity. Hotness measures some combination of physical attractiveness and other personality traits. It is possible that some people’s hotness scores come more from their good looks, other people are hot because they are charismatic or likeable (and probably not bad looking). But whatever these attributes are that generate chili peppers on ratemyprofessors, they have real impacts on economic outcomes."

Kevin Denny said...

I am joking, Liam.

Liam Delaney said...

ok - thought you were making a deeper point I was missing!

Rob Gillanders said... you must have had yours for a while? :P

Kevin Denny said...

Rob: its a long story.
Liam: I didn't get where I am today by making a deeper point.
I suspect there may be some interactions going on. A student who is not interested in the subject may be more easily distracted by their professor's appearance.
But the hard question is: how does this translate to earnings?
Clearly we need randomized control trials - the gold standard remember- in which some academics' hotness is reduced (easy) or enhanced (hmm... not sure).

Robert Cosgrave said...

Our ideals of beauty - 'hotness' if you will, did not evolve for nothing. The collection of signals and inputs our brain uses to assemble a 'hotness' indicator are the best proxies evolution could derive for genetic fitness, which includes both primary indicators closely linked to teaching ability (intellectual capacity and charisma) and secondary indicators, like social status (better, smarter people, or their descendants are likely to have more of it).
It's all very logical.