Looking Good by Doing Good: CEO Attractiveness and Corporate Philanthropy

46 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2021

See all articles by Leng Ling

Leng Ling

Georiga College & State University

Xiaoxia Li

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) - Lingnan (University) College

Danglun Luo

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU)

Xintong Pan

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 6, 2020


We study whether firm managers’ physical appearance affects their decisions on corporate philanthropy. Examining a large sample of corporate donations matched with managers’ attractiveness data, we find that male managers’ motivations for philanthropic giving are driven by their physical attractiveness. In contrast to managers with average looks, attractive managers do not engage more actively in corporate philanthropy; however, unattractive managers are more inclined to participate in charitable giving and contribute a greater amount. Further, the impact of managers’ unattractiveness on their philanthropic decisions is stronger in firms with lower market capitalization, lower managerial compensation, and weaker corporate governance. Inspired by the research in psychology, we propose two psychological channels through which physical attractiveness may influence a manager’s philanthropic decisions. First, corporate executives with undesirable looks may perceive themselves as belonging to a relatively lower social class, which is associated with a greater motivation for conducting philanthropy. Second, because altruistic behaviors may characteristically aggrandize individuals and concretely enhance their performance evaluations, unattractive managers are motivated to contribute to charity to assail the sense of inferiority due to their undesirable appearance. Together, out findings demonstrate a significant link between individuals’ attractiveness features and philanthropic motivations as well as agency problems behind managers’ ostensibly prosocial behaviors that satisfy their self-interest and personal needs.

Keywords: Attractiveness, Philanthropy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate governance

JEL Classification: G34, G41, M12, M14

Suggested Citation

Ling, Leng and Li, Xiaoxia and Luo, Danglun and Pan, Xintong, Looking Good by Doing Good: CEO Attractiveness and Corporate Philanthropy (December 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3743688 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3743688

Leng Ling (Contact Author)

Georiga College & State University ( email )

Milledgeville, GA 31061-0490
United States

Xiaoxia Li

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) - Lingnan (University) College ( email )

135 Xingang Xi Road
Tuen Mun
Guangzhou, Guangzhou 510275

Danglun Luo

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) ( email )

135, Xingang Xi Road
Haizhu District
Guangzhou, 510275

Xintong Pan

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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