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November 27, 2006

Testing Economic Theories

Tyler Cowen puts forward an idea about where the women will be most beautiful.

My simple theory of where the women are attractive has two variables: income inequality, and the willingness of wealthier men to marry beautiful women from the lower income and social classes.  Women then compete for lucrative marriage prizes.  That puts Cuba (the wealthy men are the tourists) and Brazil near the top of the list, where they belong.  New York City isn't bad, and this mechanism won't hurt China either.

Now I think that he's talking about the primping and preening here, not the simple genetic inheritance. But is there any way, other than the entirely subjective one of staring at a few photos and then making a choice, that we could test this idea?

How about the incidence of (or desire for or acceptance of) cosmetic surgery? If greater income inequality also maps over those places with a greater acceptance, then we've shown that while we may not have causation, we do indeed at least have correlation.


One in five global consumers said they would consider having cosmetic surgery and Russians are most receptive to the idea, a survey by market researcher ACNielsen shows.
However, 94 percent of Hong Kongers were against having surgery to enhance their looks as were 92 percent of Indonesians and 91 percent of Japanese and Malaysians.

Is this something to do simply with cultural attitudes in the Far East or more to do with Russia's vastly greater income inequality?

November 27, 2006 in Economics | Permalink


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You might have something there about the correlation between income inequality and acceptance of plastic surgery.

China would be another example. They have reality TV series about women who do plastic surgery. There's even a pageant for the most beautiful woman who has had plastic surgery.

Posted by: May | Nov 27, 2006 5:03:26 PM

I think it is much more correlated to western characteristics than any type of economic correlation. Argentina is not that much innequal and is one of the world leaders in plastic surgery.
I think it is a nice try, but should be cautiously seen.

Posted by: Ricardo Amaral | Nov 27, 2006 7:05:54 PM

I would also be cautious in saying that there is not much inequality in Argentina.

Posted by: Bovina | Nov 28, 2006 2:01:48 AM

Although 91% of Japanese may say they are against having plastic surgery to improve looks, quite a bit of it goes on. I even met a plastic surgeon there who was kind enough to offer to show me his "laser." He said he had used it on his wife just the day before for a bit of maintenance.

Posted by: Ronald Brak | Nov 28, 2006 5:19:25 AM

Well, when I was in the US and told people which country I came from the first reaction from many men were to remark how beautiful girls we got. I can certainly see what they mean. I wonder if that has something to do with the level of inequality in my country?

Oh, by the way, I am from the socialist paradise of Sweden.

Posted by: Johan Richter | Nov 28, 2006 6:59:35 AM

I don't know how you can generalize about the Far East because TONS of Koreans have plastic surgery:

Posted by: Andrew | Nov 28, 2006 10:43:35 PM

Here's another:

Apparently as many as 50% of Korean women in their 20s have had some cosmetic surgery.

Posted by: Andrew | Nov 28, 2006 10:44:55 PM