Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ever wonder why criminals are so darn ugly? You know, when you see a mug shot on TV or the wall of the post office, and you just scratch your head wondering how anybody gets to be that ugly?

Well, H. Naci Mocan, a Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, Denver, has wondered about what leads the ugly to a life of crime as well. Professor Mocan's specialty is in labor economics and has written on such topics as "Economic Theories of Crime."

His latest work in progress (with Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University) is "Ugly Criminals," in which they find that, "being very attractive reduces a young adult's (ages 18-26) propensity for criminal activity and being unattractive increases it for a number of crimes, ranging from burglary to selling drugs."

They suggest "two handicaps faced by unattractive individuals. First, a labor market penalty provides a direct incentive for unattractive individuals toward criminal activity. Second, the level of beauty in high school has an effect on criminal propensity 7-8 years later..." (They fail to mention the third obvious handicap: difficulty in getting dates, leading directly to sexual frustration and anti-social behavior).

The paper talks about the building of "human capital components (e.g. skills acquired through socialization in high school)" and how vital that is to leading one along the straight and narrow path of legitimate employment. Basically, if somebody called you ugly in high school, that's it: you're screwed and condemned to a life of crime just because of a few zits and a bad haircut.

Download the full paper at Professor Mocan's home page.

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