Tall or Taller, Pretty or Prettier: Is Discrimination Absolute or Relative?
Using several microeconomic data sets from the United States and the Netherlands, and the examples of height and beauty, this study examines whether: 1) Absolute or relative differences in a characteristic are what affect labor-market and other outcomes; and 2) The effects of a characteristic change when all agents acquire more of it--become taller or better-looking. Confronted with a choice among individuals, decision-makers respond more to absolute than to relative differences among them. Also, an increase in the mean of a characteristic's distribution does not alter market responses to differences in it.
I am indebted to Michèle Belot, Lex Borghans, Joni Hersch and Michael Price, each of whom provided one of the data sets used here and explained its idiosyncrasies, and to the CentER of Tilburg University for making the DNB data available. I thank Jason Abrevaya, V. Bhaskar, John Komlos, Steve Trejo and participants in seminars at several institutions for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
IZA Journal of Labor Economics 2012, 1:2 doi:10.1186/2193-8997-1-2 citation courtesy of