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The College Admissions Contribution to the Labor Market Beauty Premium

Ong, David and Xie, Man (2020): The College Admissions Contribution to the Labor Market Beauty Premium.

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Beautiful people earn more. Surprisingly, this premium is larger for men than for women and is independent of the degree of customer contact. Overlooked is the possibility that beauty can influence college admissions. We explore this potential academic contributor to the labor market beauty earnings premium by sampling 1,800 social media profiles of alumni from universities ranked from 1 to 200 in China and the US. Chinese universities use only standardized test scores for admissions. In contrast, US universities use also grades and extracurricular activities, which are not necessarily beauty-blind. Consistent with beauty-blind admissions, alumni’s beauty is uncorrelated with the rank of college attended in China. In the US, White men from higher ranked colleges are better-looking. As expected, the correlation is insignificant for White men who attended tech colleges and is highest for those who attended private colleges. We also find that White women and minorities of either gender are not better-looking at higher ranked colleges. Our evidence suggests a college admissions contribution to the labor market beauty premium for US White men, but not for alumni in China of either gender, White women, or minorities of either gender in the US, or for White men who attended technical colleges. We discuss how a college admissions preference for athletes can explain our findings.

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