Oregon State University economist Patrick Emerson wonders if Steve Novick's height could cost him the primary election. And not because anybody thinks his height would make him a bad Senator.
Let him explain it:
Now, we all know intuitively that height has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to be a good senator - or does it? Steve is obviously extremely intelligent, personable and hard working, so I would argue there is nothing innate about his height that lessens his ability to be an effective senator.
But suppose I was worried about his ability to be elected not because of any prejudice I had about his height, but because I thought others might worry about the effect of his height.
If everyone in Oregon were like me, personally not worried about his height but worried about others holding his height against him, notice what happens: my initial worry would be confirmed. No one would vote for him because of his height, not because they believed it made him less able but because they believed it would make him unelectable, and they would all have been proven right ex post.
This is what in economics are known as self-fulfilling expectations: you expect his height to be a problem, so you act that way, and by such action you cause it to be true.
Jan. 16, 2008 | | elsewhere.Posted in