Do Ugly People Commit More Crime?

Do ugly people commit more crime? Yes, statistically speaking anyhow.

Before you chalk this one up as the discredited pseudoscience of physiognomy rearing its ugly head, consider the argument behind a paper by Georgia State University economist (and dashingly handsome guy) Erdal Tekin:

Ugly people are more likely to break the law. This is the statistically based conclusion in a paper published in The Review of Economics and Statistics entitled Ugly Criminals [...]

This takes us to the modern Ugly Criminals study, which is subtler than it might seem. It is based on an anonymous questionnaire combined with equally anonymous ratings of the subject’s attractiveness. It shows a small but significant correlation between attractiveness, or the lack of it, and criminality. The most unattractive segment are 1.5 per cent more likely to have committed robbery, 2.2 per cent more likely to have committed assault, and 3 per cent more likely to have sold drugs. Or to have been caught doing so, at any rate.

The authors note previous work showing how more attractive people are more successful in their careers and earn more. This puts less attractive people at a disadvantage in the world of work and nudges them towards criminal alternatives. In addition, less attract ive people suffer socially, make fewer friends and build less of what the authors call “human capital”. They are therefore not as sympathetic to others and have less of an investment in society. This effect is far more pronounced in females, suggesting that they are judged on their appearance to a much greater degree.

Links: Article at Fortean Times | The paper Ugly Criminals by H. Naci Mocan and Erdal Tekin [PDF]


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This study is a great example of the reverse causation fallacy. It assumes that ugliness magically causes people to commit crimes, rather than reaching the simpler and more obvious conclusion that people's lifestyles can affect their attractiveness. It's like those studies that claim that violent video games magically cause people to commit violent crimes. Luckily, most studies now support the simpler and more obvious solution: violent people are more likely to enjoy violent video games. Sadly, too many politicians remain ignorant of this.
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Since it says this data is from a SURVEY it kind of invalidates all of you "ugly people are more likely to get caught" explanations

But it's still a stupid study.
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Agree with AmiBambini, ted, and Twist. Poverty is awfully hard on a person's looks and wealth the opposite. It would be strange if criminals didn't tend to be uglier, THAT would require some explanation!
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That's a simple error of sociology. People in the higher socioeconomic strata have more access to lives and products to make them "attractive" and white collar crime goes highly undetected because it is the people with money who drive the system. Thus, people with less money, harsher lifestyles, and less power are those who are likely to be caught in their acts of deviance.
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