CEO Pulchronomics and Appearance Discrimination
Asian Review of Accounting, 2021, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 443-473.
51 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016 Last revised: 9 Sep 2021
Date Written: July 3, 2016
Pulchronomics is the economics study of beauty. Given the importance of CEOs in wealth creation, we study CEO pulchronomics by first examining whether a beauty premium exists in CEO compensation. Since earnings gaps need to be accounted for differences in productivity, we also investigate whether CEO pulchritude has any effect on productivity. Due to the productivity enhancing effects of beauty, Mobius and Rosenblat (2006) argue that researchers need to identify a task that requires a true skill which is uncorrelated with physical attractiveness. We identify three CEO tasks — accounting, operations, and corporate social responsibility — that could imperfectly meet or partially satisfy this criterion. We measure CEO pulchritude via the AnaFace facial beauty analysis, which uses facial symmetry, facial structure, and the golden ratio to calculate a person’s beauty. This symmetry-based methodology is well supported by research in evolutionary biology and computer science. We find that attractive CEOs earn higher salaries, but not incentive pays, than do unattractive CEOs. Nevertheless, CEO pulchritude bears no effect on firms’ accounting, operating and social performance. Since the CEO beauty premium is not supported by the superior productivity of those attractive CEOs, we provide evidence that appearance discrimination in CEO compensation may not be justified.
Keywords: pulchronomics, beauty premium, accounting, corporate social responsibility
JEL Classification: J71, M14, M41, M52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation