Beauty, Job Tasks, and Wages: A New Conclusion about Employer Taste-Based Discrimination

Beauty, Job Tasks, and Wages: A New Conclusion about Employer Taste-Based Discrimination by Todd R. Stinebrickner, Ralph Stinebrickner, Paul J. Sullivan

[I’m sceptical that there’s no discrimination in jobs where beauty doesn’t generate a dividend for the employer, but what would I know? And more to the point if I can’t publish papers against my priors at Troppo where could I? In any event, it’s pretty clear there’s beauty based discrimination here in the Troppo collective. NG]

We use novel data from the Berea Panel Study to reexamine the
labor market mechanisms generating the beauty wage premium. We
find that the beauty premium varies widely across jobs with
different task requirements. Specifically, in jobs where
existing research such as Hamermesh and Biddle (1994) has posited
that attractiveness is plausibly a productivity enhancing
attribute–those that require substantial amounts of
interpersonal interaction–a large beauty premium exists. In
contrast, in jobs where attractiveness seems unlikely to truly
enhance productivity–jobs that require working with information
and data–there is no beauty premium. This stark variation in
the beauty premium across jobs is inconsistent with the
employer-based discrimination explanation for the beauty premium,
because this theory predicts that all jobs will favor attractive
workers. Our approach is made possible by unique longitudinal
task data, which was collected to address the concern that
measurement error in variables describing the importance of
interpersonal tasks would tend to bias results towards finding a
primary role for employer taste-based discrimination. As such,
it is perhaps not surprising that our conclusions about the
importance of employer taste-based discrimination are in stark
contrast to all previous research that has utilized a similar
conceptual approach.

Posted in Economics and public policy | 1 Comment

Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship

Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, by Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin Jones, J. Daniel Kim, Javier Miranda – #24489 (PR)


Many observers, and many investors, believe that young people are
especially likely to produce the most successful new firms. We
use administrative data at the U.S. Census Bureau to study the
ages of founders of growth-oriented start-ups in the past decade.
Our primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are
middle-aged, not young. The mean founder age for the 1 in 1,000
fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. The findings are broadly
similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial
hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the
specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial
success. These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that
emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.

Posted in Economics and public policy, Innovation | Leave a comment

Why it’s worth stomping on Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Pest

Actual picture of the Universal Basic Income idea

In my latest column for The CEO Magazine I take aim at the idea of universal basic income (UBI). The column uses the insights of the always terrific Peter Whiteford, of the ANU’s Crawford School, and Troppo’s own Don Arthur, who has written a terrific backgrounder on the issue for the Parliamentary Library.

Bottom line: the UBI idea has terrible bang for buck. It is, in H.L. Mencken’s words, “neat, plausible and wrong”.

Now, it’s generally way too easy to stomp on a dodgy idea. I try to spend many of my columns on what I reckon are good ideas, like independent fiscal councils, or new research, like this work on pay equity, or even just pointing out that good things are happening in the world.

But there’s a particular type of dubious idea that gets seized on by impassioned partisans as the One Right Way To Do Things. This can be a problem for anyone who believes in incremental improvements to the system. An example of this was the carbon price debate of 2008-2010, where the Greens’ misguided purity ensured that we have had neither emission trading scheme nor carbon tax for most of the past decade.

It’s quite possible to imagine a future where the Greens decide that a future government’s legislation for welfare improvements isn’t going to be passed because a UBI is the One Right Way To Do Welfare.

So there are times when a bad idea, like a cane toad, should be stomped on before it does any more damage.

Stomping seems particularly advisable if the existing alternative is actually good.  Continue reading

Posted in Best From Elsewhere, Economics and public policy, Politics - national, Social Policy | 19 Comments

Central banking for all: the podcast

As some of you will have noticed, the Greens released today a policy that borrows heavily on my own proposal “Central banking for all: A modest proposal for radical reform” now available in a number of versions, though this is probably one of the clearer more compelling presentations of it. I did a few radio interviews on it today, and here’s one edited down from around 15 minutes on the phone to The Wire. I’m posting it here for the record as it were, not because I think it’s a great interview. But I hope you enjoy it if you listen.

Posted in Economics and public policy | 1 Comment

Plastic carry bags

After exhaustive discussion, I’ve been deputed to inform our readers of Troppo’s plastic bag policy. We’re in favour of single-use plastic bags. In fact, we’re making them compulsory.

I was recently in Book Grocer and was refused a plastic bag, though they were prepared to give me a paper bag which on thinking about it, I’ve always thought was probably worse for the environment because I’d have assumed it was more energy intensive. The two supermarket chains are phasing out free single-use bags and replacing them with paid multi-use bags. Thing is, they’re unlikely to be used often enough to improve the environment. I’ve no problems in them being charged for – nor do I have problems with them being free – but all other interventions, all other preferences to get back to granma’s time with cloth and paper bags, are probably actually bad for the environment. Whodda thunk?

From this British Government “Life cycle assessment of supermarket carrierbags” conducted in 2011.

The paper, LDPE, non-woven PP and cotton bags should be reused at least four, five, 14 and 173 times respectively to ensure that they have lower global warming potential than conventional HDPE carrier bags.

Here’s the rest of it in table form:

Here are the study’s conclusions regarding individual carrier bags: Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Environment | 24 Comments

Sam Harris, idolater of reason, outs himself

Too much wit outwits itself

Folk saying quoted by Hegel 1

I stumbled upon this extraordinary exchange between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein, late the night before last and though, I was supposed to be going to sleep, I couldn’t stop till I’d finished it. I’d previously come across Harris by reading bits of his books in bookshops. The style is that of an adolescent kid who’s figured out that Santa isn’t real and spends the rest of his time proving that God isn’t real. Fair enough. No-one knows if God is real, or what God might be if God is real. Once one has reached that insight, writing whole books about the Santa insight – that God could be about as real as Santa – seems pretty lame. They’re certainly not books I’ll be reading.

Anyway, I’m spared writing that much, very directly on Harris’s exchange with Klein, because Henry Farrell has done it for me.

One of the minor plagues of our time is a specific flavor of Enlightenment Man Rationalism – see Harris, Dawkins, Pinker – in which the Enlightenment Man … casts himself as the bold-honest truth-seeker, who is willing to follow reason wherever it takes him, even if (and perhaps especially if) this upsets the vulgar prejudices of the right-thinking herd. … The problem, as Harris so aptly demonstrates, is that reason usually isn’t independent of our passions, but their slave (see Hume, passim). … This doesn’t mean that reason is useless – if harnessed through appropriate social means, it can be extremely valuable in figuring out the truth. The fact that we are much better at poking holes in other people’s rationales than in our own means that groups that harness this capacity can reach better judgments than individuals. But it does highlight the possibility of an unfortunate circuit that can occur where an individual has prejudices, uses reason to elaborate good rationales for those prejudices, and then convinces himself through his own reasoning capacity that he was right all along. Continue reading

  1. Quoted from memory.
Posted in Cultural Critique, Philosophy, Political theory | 16 Comments

When big brother knows best

Saving Lives by Tying Hands: The Unexpected Effects of Constraining Health Care Providers


The emergency department (ED) is a complex node of healthcare
delivery that is facing market and regulatory pressure across
developed economies to reduce wait times. In this paper we study
how ED doctors respond to such incentives, by focussing on a
landmark policy in England that imposed strong incentives to
treat ED patients within four hours. Using bunching techniques,
we estimate that the policy reduced affected patients’ wait times
by 19 minutes, yet distorted a number of medical decisions. In
response to the policy, doctors increased the intensity of ED
treatment and admitted more patients for costly inpatient care.
We also find a striking 14% reduction in mortality. To determine
the mechanism behind these health improvements, we exploit
heterogeneity in patient severity and hospital crowding, and find
strongly suggestive evidence that it is the reduced wait times,
rather than the additional admits, that saves lives. Overall we
conclude that, despite distorting medical decisions, constraining
ED doctors can induce cost-effective reductions in mortality.

by Jonathan Gruber, Thomas P. Hoe, George Stoye

Posted in Economics and public policy, Health | Leave a comment