Bryan Caplan and David Henderson  

Returns to Beauty

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Further Kiwiana... Thoughts on the Super-Rich...

Giam Petro Cipriano and Angelo Zago find that more attractive students in economics earn higher test scores than their less attractive counterparts, an effect that's magnified rather than attenuated in written exams when compared to oral exams. While a causal mechanism isn't specified in the paper, most accounts seem desperate to chalk it up to discrimination favouring the attractive in the period prior to testing: profs lavish more attention on attractive students, attractive people have more self confidence, and so on. Mightn't the simplest explanation be that smart people earn more money and attract more attractive spouses?



COMMENTS (11 to date)
aaron writes:

Maybe they are attractive because the characteristics we find attractive are associated with fitness, health, and intelligence. Duh.

I like that it is more reflected in written than oral exams. Might there be a bias against the attractive in acedemia?

aaron writes:

Wealth does let you pick an attractive mate and it also gives you access to good plasic surgeons.

aaron writes:

Side note:

I was pleasantly suprised to find that many of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders were GMU students.

Maybe higher test scores increase attractiveness.

BTW, how old are the students in question? We can expect college seniors to have higher scores and less acne than freshmen.

Richard Phillips writes:

I think this explanation might be testable. Please note that I will simplify things a little. It would not be reasonable to think that children of intelligent but not so beautiful people with beautiful but not so intelligent spouses tend to inherit the best of both. The explanation seems to be pointing to an unlucky group of ugly and dumb people who are "trapped", i.e., will have a strong likelihood to marry other ugly and dumb people. If this is correct, average and good looking people (i.e, intelligence and beauty matchings) will outperform ugly people on average, but this effect should disappear as you move upwards in the beauty distribution.

Robert Speirs writes:

Instead of explaining higher test scores, aren't earning more money and therefore attracting more attractive women consequences of getting higher test scores?

Half Sigma writes:

"aren't earning more money and therefore attracting more attractive women consequences of getting higher test scores"

My original research shows that higher intelligence provides no boost to income after taking educational attainment into account.

The correlation between IQ and income only exists because people with higher IQs are more likely to have bachelor's and graduate degrees.

I have also discovered that peopel with higher IQs have less sex, but it's not clear if this is because they have trouble attracting people, or if they are just more uptight about sex.

Scott Scheule writes:

I don't think anyone's pointed out what I think is the simplest explanation: professors prefer their more attractive students, and so give them better grades.

Ugly people are hard to look at.

Eric Crampton writes:

Scott: I'm pretty sure they used blind grading so folks didn't know whose papers they were looking at.

Scott Jacobson writes:

I think a very large hole in this problem has been overlooked: Which group is judging the attractivness of these students? Professors? Statisticians? The students themselves (such as in a survey)? It seems to me that each of these groups would have a different view of beauty. Without knowing how attrictiveness was measured one cannot assume any connections between it and intelligence. It would be like saying attractive students are smarter. How is intelligence judged? Without knowing we cannot validate the claim.

Steve Sailer writes:

Dan Seligman used to cover this all the time in his Fortune magazine column back in the 1970-80s.

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