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Tall or Taller, Pretty or Prettier: Is Discrimination Absolute or Relative?

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh

Abstract

Using several microeconomic data sets from the United States and the Netherlands, and the examples of height and beauty, this study examines whether: 1) Absolute or relative differences in a characteristic are what affect labor-market and other outcomes; and 2) The effects of a characteristic change when all agents acquire more of it—become taller or better-looking. Confronted with a choice among individuals, decision-makers respond more to absolute than to relative differences among them. Also, an increase in the mean of a characteristic’s distribution does not alter market responses to differences in it.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18123.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
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Publication status: published as IZA Journal of Labor Economics 2012, 1:2 doi:10.1186/2193-8997-1-2
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18123

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  1. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Munich Reprints in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 20267, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782, May.
  3. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. 232, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Michèle Belot & V. Bhaskar & Jeroen van de Ven, 2012. "Beauty and the Sources of Discrimination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(3), pages 851-872.
  5. Fryer Roland & Jackson Matthew O., 2008. "A Categorical Model of Cognition and Biased Decision Making," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-44, February.
  6. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
  7. Joni Hersch, 2008. "Profiling the New Immigrant Worker: The Effects of Skin Color and Height," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 345-386, 04.
  8. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
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