Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Beauty Premium: Puzzle Resolved?

Dennis Mangan brings to my attention a fascinating angle on the Beauty Premium (the fact that more attractive people earn more, test better, etc.). By virtue of mating preference, attractiveness is a proxy for intelligence and other aptitudes.

The Rothschild effect, as you could call it, is well established in sociology research: Men everywhere want to marry beautiful women, and women everywhere want socially dominant (i.e., intelligent) husbands. When competent men marry pretty women, the couple tends to have children above average in both competence and looks. Covariance is everywhere....

The Rothschild effect got its name from the circumstance that the original Rothschild men, though obviously very successful, were, shall we say, not exactly handsome. But their wealth gave them access to beautiful women, and subsequent generations of Rothschilds became markedly better-looking.

The explanation sounds plausible, but it seems inconsistent with some research I discussed in a previous post.