Bryan Caplan  

An Implausible Randian Correlation Checks Out

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Mmmm... Lunch... Individual Creativity...

One of the countless criticisms of Ayn Rand's novels is that she makes all her heroes good-looking and all her villains ugly. That's not quite true - Floyd Ferris is known as "that good-looking scientist" - but it's close. It turns out that she was on to something: a new NBER piece finds that ugliness predicts criminality:


First, a labor market penalty provides a direct incentive for unattractive individuals toward criminal activity. Second, the level of beauty in high school has an effect on criminal propensity 7-8 years later, which seems to be due to the impact of the level of beauty in high school on human capital formation, although this second avenue seems to be effective for females only.

Thanks to Alex Tabarrok for the pointer.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
CS writes:

This seems plausible, but I wonder if part of the effect is attractiveness serving as a proxy for intelligence/mental stability:

www.brandeis.edu/departments/psych/Leslies%20pdf/Zebrowitz,%20Hall..2002.pdf

Jason Colorado writes:

But the link is to a toll-access copy. A copy that you could actually read is on the web at



http://www.iza.org/conference_files/TAM2005/tekin_e527.pdf

T.R. Elliott writes:

What I'd like to know is (a) who pays for useless studies like this and (b) who actually has the time to read and think about useless studies like this.

Scott Scheule writes:

Attractive people.

Bill writes:

Good one, Scheule!

Eric Slusser writes:

I find that this information makes the criticism of Ayn Rand more pointed. It's not good to find that Ayn Rand is strengthening a prejudice against unattractiveness.

Also, I think it hurts her story artistically. I am distracted by the thought that the reason Howard Roark and Dominique Francon are attracted to each other is that they like sex with attractive people, not because they find each other to be philosophical ideals.

Anyway, Peter Keating is another counter-example. He's attractive but intellectually empty. Mike is another counter-example; he's ugly yet admires Roark.

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