Looking for the Job

Kevin Lewis

February 29, 2024

Attractiveness and Attainment: Status, Beauty, and Jobs in China and the United States
Christopher Marquis, Andras Tilcsik & Ying Zhang
American Journal of Sociology, forthcoming


Research on how physical attractiveness affects labor market outcomes has yielded contradictory results. Conceptualizing attractiveness as a diffuse status characteristic, we emphasize the role of status consistency in matching job applicants to positions of varying prestige. We argue that the effects of attractiveness depend on consistency with the job seeker’s other status characteristics and fit with the status of the focal job. A résumé audit study in China and a survey experiment in the United States both show that more attractive applicants with elite educational credentials were favored for higher-status jobs and less attractive applicants from non-elite universities were favored for lower-status positions. Applicants with either attractive looks or elite educational credentials, but not both, were not favored for either type of job. Our model reconciles the mixed results of previous research and illuminates the interplay between physical and non-physical status characteristics in labor markets.

Modeling gender differences in the job promotion process: Replication and extension of Martell et al. (1996)
David Meldgin, Gregory Mitchell & Frederick Oswald
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming 


Differences in employee evaluations due to gender bias may be small in any given rating cycle, but they may accumulate to produce large disparities in the number of women and men promoted to the top of an organization. A highly cited simulation by Martell et al. (1996) demonstrates this cumulative advantage process in a multilevel organization. We replicated this simulation to uncover important details about its operating assumptions, and we extended the simulation to examine a range of variables that may impact the cumulative effects of gender bias. The replication revealed that the male cumulative advantage in the Martell et al. simulation requires (a) decades of typical promotion cycles to produce, (b) constant mean differences in the performance ratings of women and men but equal within-group variances, and (c) attrition that occurs randomly at a low and constant rate. Our extended simulation demonstrates that (a) cumulative effects of gender bias are higher when the attrition rate is lower, (b) gender biases are mitigated when attrition is more strongly associated with good or poor performance, and (c) the cumulative effects of mean gender differences in performance ratings can often be smaller than the cumulative effects of variance differences between gender subgroups. Results suggest that talent development and recognition of high performers might have a greater positive impact on female representation at top levels of a firm than programs aimed at reducing bias in employee evaluations. We encourage additional simulation work that further explores the dynamics of cumulative advantage in employment settings.

Gender stereotypes may not influence the choice of female leaders: Experimental evidence from a crisis framed as social or economic during the COVID-19 pandemic 
Ruri Takizawa et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming 


This research examined whether female (vs. male) leaders are preferred during a pandemic when stereotypically feminine leadership is deemed useful. We hypothesized that citizens prefer female (vs. male) politicians when the crisis is framed as a social (vs. economic) crisis because they believe it requires feminine (vs. masculine) leadership. In a pilot study and three online experiments with US residents (Ntotal = 1675), we manipulated crisis type or a leadership candidate's gender for a task force. While participants indicated that a crisis framed as social (vs. economic) required more feminine leadership, they did not appoint a woman more or rated her as more suitable for the social crisis (vs. economic crisis or a no-crisis situation). Furthermore, the female (vs. male) candidate was not perceived to possess more feminine leadership traits. Overall, participants did not rely on gender stereotypes when explicitly evaluating politicians. We discuss potential explanations for these unexpected results.

The Power Five: The Making of Newsworthy Deal Teams
Tracey George, Mitu Gulati & Albert Yoon
University of Virginia Working Paper, February 2024


The number of law firm partners who identify as women has more than doubled since 1993. Will these gender parity advances regress as employers curb diversity efforts? To answer that question, we look at the organizational dynamics that affect women’s opportunities and outcomes through the lens of newsworthy deal teams. These teams, averaging five lawyers, are at the power center of law firms. Our analysis of over 10,000 deals and more than 50,000 attorneys for the period 2013-2023 reveal evidence that women’s gains may be sustainable without continued DEI interventions. While women are less likely to be at the top of a team and more likely to be on smaller transactions and cases, they are slowly advancing up the team ladder and gaining power. Over the past decade, the representation of women on leadership teams has grown 50%. Women are taking more seats at the deal table, increasing from one out of five spots to nearly one out of three. Women have not yet achieved parity in law firms but are on a positive trajectory in contrast to the early evidence for attorneys who are racial and ethnic minorities. Making the team -- the “power five” -- reveals existing power structures while also suggesting future authority and control.

Beyond the pitch: Exploring the role of beauty in soccer player salaries
Petr Parshakov et al.
Journal of Economic Psychology, March 2024 


The paper explores the potential influence of subjective factors on salary determination, particularly examining the impact of physical appearance on the earnings of soccer players. This study encompasses data from 373 Major League Soccer players over 12 seasons (2007-2018). Facial symmetry, quantified using the coordinates of each player’s facial features, is utilized as an indicator of physical attractiveness. Various analytical models, including linear, semiparametric, and quantile models, are applied. The results point to a notable 'beauty premium' in the salary structure within this context, with the effects being more significant among the highest earners.

Image isn’t everything: Personality attractiveness, physical attractiveness, and self-employment earnings
Marcus Wolfe & Pankaj Patel
Small Business Economics, February 2024, Pages 807–831 


Complementing studies on physical attractiveness and labor market outcomes, we use the information on physical and personality attractiveness rated by interviewers from four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (ADD Health) for 1,485 individuals (73 female and 60 male self-employed). Though neither physical attractiveness nor personality attractiveness is related to self-employment earnings individually, females who are self-employed with both physical attractiveness and personality attractiveness have higher earnings. There are no effects of both attractiveness types for males (employed or self-employed) or females (employed) on earnings.

Unlocking the Benefits of Gender Diversity: How an Ecological-Belonging Intervention Enhances Performance in Science Classrooms 
Kevin Binning et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming 


Gender diversity signals inclusivity, but meta-analyses suggest that it does not boost individual or group performance. This research examined whether a social-psychological intervention can unlock the benefits of gender diversity on college physics students’ social and academic outcomes. Analyses of 124 introductory physics classrooms at a large research institution in the eastern United States (N = 3,605) indicated that in classrooms doing “business as usual,” cross-gender collaboration was infrequent, there was a substantial gender gap in physics classroom belonging, and classroom gender diversity had no effect on performance. The ecological-belonging intervention aimed to establish classroom norms that adversity in the course is normal and surmountable. In classrooms receiving the intervention, cross-gender interaction increased 51%, the gender gap in belonging was reduced by 47%, and higher classroom diversity was associated with higher course grades and 1-year grade point average for both men and women. Addressing contextual belongingness norms may help to unlock the benefits of diversity.

License to Broker: How Mobility Eliminates Gender Gaps in Network Advantage
Evelyn Zhang, Brandy Aven & Adam Kleinbaum
Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming


Brokerage in intra-organizational networks is critical to performance, but women exhibit less brokerage in their social networks and receive lower performance returns to the brokerage they exhibit than men do. We uncover a condition under which the gender gaps in network advantage are entirely negated: mobility. When women move between units of the organization, they increase their brokerage more than mobile men do. Further, such mobility eliminates the gender gap in returns to brokerage. Using a rich dataset including the personnel records, monthly performance, and email communications of thousands of employees in a large financial institution, we find support for our arguments by comparing the networks and objective performance of those who changed jobs with matched non-movers prior to and following each job change. In probing why this might be the case, we find that women movers are more likely to maintain communication ties to colleagues from their previous roles and that these persistent ties give them a discernible and gender-role-congruent explanation for connecting otherwise disconnected units and benefiting from network brokerage. Our results illuminate important mechanisms by which social network dynamics and mobility affect gender inequality and performance in organizations.

Population density and intergenerational upward mobility in the U.S.
Ningning Guo
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming 


This paper documents a negative relationship between population density and intergenerational upward mobility in the U.S. which is entirely driven by disadvantaged boys, especially black boys. In contrast, disadvantaged black and Hispanic girls perform better in dense urban areas.


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