Monday, January 16, 2012

An attractive research question?

Robin Hanson has an entertaining suggestion for dissertation research:
This suggests that studying how physical attractiveness varies with industry, occupation, and position could give us a window into agency failures at work. That is, it could show us where some employees are especially free to choose for their personal benefit, rather than for a larger benefit. Even when they leave clear evidence of this self-dealing. Seems like a project for an enterprising data-gathering grad student.
Of course, a confounding factor is when attractiveness contributes directly to an employee's marginal product: modeling, fundraising and pharmaceutical sales come to mind as possible industries that confound the explanation. In this respect, a job where attractiveness serves little or no useful role -- such as Hanson's government contractor example -- is an ideal setting to unveil possible agency problems.

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