Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vote for the good-looking man

Volokh's blog reports on beauty research:
Are beautiful politicians more likely to be elected? To test this, we use evidence from Australia, a country in which voting is compulsory, ... Beautiful candidates are indeed more likely to be elected, with a one standard deviation increase in beauty associated with a 1½ – 2 percentage point increase in voteshare. ...

Lastly, we present some suggestive evidence on the question of whether the effect of beauty represents productivity or discrimination. In electorates where a higher share of voters say that they do not care who wins, that they are not interested in politics, and that they are not interested in the election, the marginal effect of beauty is larger. On the assumption that apathetic voters are more likely to discriminate, and engaged voters are more likely to choose based upon productive characteristics, this suggests that the effect of beauty on voteshare is more likely to reflect discrimination than returns to productivity.
I think that this last paragraph is incorrect, because "productivity or discrimination" is a false dichotomy. All voting is discriminatory.

If beauty is correlated with productivity for politicians, then the voters may be rational. It seems plausible to me that a good-looking man will be a whole lot more likely to develop political skills that make his a more effective politician. The same might not be true for women because pretty girls can often get ahead with poor political skills.

There could also be a genetic element. Other research has shown:
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that men's cardiovascular fitness at the age of 18 is a marker for later academic achievement.
Other research has shown that all sorts of seemingly unrelated talents are actually correlated.

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