The talent of Jeremy Lin may seem patently clear now. But when Lin was just out of college, no NBA general manager or coach saw his potential. Two different statistically based evaluation models deemed him as one of the best college players his senior year.
Though the Knicks picked him up, he may have languished on the bench, had it not been for the team injuries that pushed him onto the court.
Why didn’t anyone have an inkling of what Lin could do? Stereotypes. The lanky Asian-American from Harvard didn’t fit the image of an NBA point guard.
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The same stereotyping takes place in American business. According to economist Daniel Hamermesh, we’re so swayed by beauty that we financially reward the good-looking. Taller, attractive people are paid more.
For example, handsome men earn 4% more than OK-looking men with similar experience and education. Uglier men earn 13% less. That means, over the course of a career, a dashing male could earn an average of $230,000 more.
Other studies suggest that because attractive people are more confident, they perform better. And that’s why they’re paid more.
There may be no use fighting our predilection for the attractive. But, when it comes to the workplace, it might be worth looking beyond stereotypes to determine whether a Jeremy Lin is currently languishing on the bench.
— Adapted from “Linjustice,” James Surowiecki, The New Yorker.
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