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Ugly Criminals

  • Naci Mocan
  • Erdal Tekin

Using data from three waves of Add Health we find that being very attractive reduces a young adult's (ages 18-26) propensity for criminal activity and being unattractive increases it for a number of crimes, ranging from burglary to selling drugs. A variety of tests demonstrate that this result is not because beauty is acting as a proxy for socio-economic status. Being very attractive is also positively associated adult vocabulary test scores, which suggests the possibility that beauty may have an impact on human capital formation. We demonstrate that, especially for females, holding constant current beauty, high school beauty (pre-labor market beauty) has a separate impact on crime, and that high school beauty is correlated with variables that gauge various aspects of high school experience, such as GPA, suspension or having being expelled from school, and problems with teachers. These results suggest two handicaps faced by unattractive individuals. 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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12019.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12019.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
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Publication status: published as Mocan, Naci and Erdal Tekin. "Ugly Criminals." The Review of Economics and Statistics 92, 1 (2010): 15-30.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12019
Note: CH HE LS
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  1. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Names, Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap," NBER Working Papers 11195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. H. Naci Mocan & Hope Corman, 2000. "A Time-Series Analysis of Crime, Deterrence, and Drug Abuse in New York City," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 584-604, June.
  3. H. Naci Mocan & Stephen C. Billups & Jody Overland, 2000. "A Dynamic Model of Differential Human Capital and Criminal Activity," NBER Working Papers 7584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Laura Argys & Naci Mocan, 2003. "Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? An Analysis of Prisoners on Death Row in the United States," NBER Working Papers 9507, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. H. Naci Mocan & Daniel I. Rees, 2005. "Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 319-349.
  7. Markus M. Mobius & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 222-235, March.
  8. Harper, Barry, 2000. " Beauty, Stature and the Labour Market: A British Cohort Study," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(0), pages 771-800, Special I.
  9. Jeff E. Biddle & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1995. "Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," NBER Working Papers 5366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mocan, Naci & Tekin, Erdal, 2003. "Guns, Drugs and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Panel of Siblings and Twins," IZA Discussion Papers 932, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  12. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Meng, Xin & Zhang, Junsen, 2002. "Dress for success--does primping pay?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 361-373, July.
  13. Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 6191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Kuhn, Peter J. & Weinberger, Catherine, 2002. "Leadership Skills and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 482, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  16. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2005. "Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 11567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Jeff Grogger, 1997. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," NBER Working Papers 5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Mocan, H Naci & Tekin, Erdal, 2006. "Guns and Juvenile Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 507-31, October.
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