Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aphabetical Bias ,or What's In a Surname?

Judging by a recent paper from the Journal of Economic Perspectives, it would appear that I stand in good stead if I ever want a job in economics accedemia, and I have my father to thank for it.

And no, it's not just because he was such a great dad and taught me how to fend for myself and all. Not that he didn't help set me on numerous paths of opportunity. He did indeed. But one step would appear to have accrued simply from sticking with the country's naming tradition.

A paper entitled "What's in a Surname? The Effect of Surname Initials on Academic Success" by Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv (of Stanford and Caltech)showed some rather comprehensive data that showed measurable advantage to those with names starting with letters earlier in the Alphabet.

The more elite the selection criteria, the more the bias was evident. Check out the paper.

In retrospect, I can remember that just through the happenstance of my last name, I usually ended up first in or second in line whenever a class was organized, and got to start projects earlier than most. Maybe that sort of things add up. So all you teachers out there, start switching up and be sure to sort from the back of the alphabet half the time, or else suffer the risks and liabilities of unintended alphabetic discrimination.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How True! I always thought it was a well deserved advantage! Phil