Thursday, February 09, 2006

You're so ugly it's criminal

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that, controlling for other factors, people that are ugly are more likely to commit crimes. The paper is called, simply enough, "Ugly Criminals," and below is the abstract:
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.
And yes, this is economics.

Any ideas of why this might be? Remember that the authors establish that it is not because rich people are less likely to be ugly.

(Source: Marginal Revolution)


Rebecca Merrick said...

Unattractive people may be more likely to become criminals or have less success because they are more likely to be less confident, which will hurt them in school and make them more likely to choose a criminal profession. It also might be more difficult for unattractive people to get jobs, so crime is a more attractive alternative for them.

Anonymous said...

First off, I would like to point out rebecca's nice word choice when she said "crime is a more attractive alternative for" the ugly criminals.. I thought it was funny. Anyways I agree with Rebecca that people that are ugly have a lower self esteem which could either bury them in their studies or do the exact opposite. If you are not a "popular kid" and you are ugly one might try to play the hardcore kid to become cooler and more popular when in turn he/she is setting themself up for failure in the future.