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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bias in hiring and firing

The ugly truth, according to economics professors Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Jeff Biddle of Michigan State University, is that plain people earn 5 to 10 percent less than people of average looks, who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those deemed good-looking.

Size matters, too. A study released last year by two professors at the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina found that tall people earn considerably more money throughout their careers than their shorter co-workers, with each inch adding about $789 a year in pay.


Every time I hear complaints about racial discrimination or sexism in employment, I think to the many forms of discrimination that persist, and will persist forever. We have made a lot of progress towards a colorblind society, where skin color or gender are not considered as impediments towards doing the job.

However, humans are hardwired to appreciate attractive people, who will forever have certain advantages.

There are advantages to civil service exams, in that they eliminate a lot of these subjective determinations. Yet nothing is perfect.

It should go without saying that if you're involved in hiring, take some time to describe why you prefer one candidate over another.

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