THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 31, Fall 2006

William A. McEachern, Editor

Hot or Not?

In an optional category that RateMyProfessor.com says is "just for fun," students are asked to rate the professor's "appearance." Students who respond have only two choices: "hot" or "not," with no gradations in between. A professor's "hotness" rating is based on the sum of the "hot" votes and the "not" votes, where "hot" is +1 and "not" is -1. If the sum is positive, a red chili pepper identifies the professor's appearance as "hot." If the sum is zero or negative, no chili pepper or any other identifier appears.

This hotness rating may have some relevance, given the possible role that an instructor's appearance may play in teaching evaluations (as discussed in "Beauty Contest," The Teaching Economist , Issue 25, Fall 2003). First, I determined the average degree of "hotness" at the sample institutions. On average, 31% of all rated faculty were judged to be hot. Among economists, 23% were hot. So faculty on average were hotter than economists—about one third hotter in this sample.

Although faculty averaged hotter than economists at each type of institution, the faculty advantage was smallest at elite colleges, where 36% of the faculty were hot versus 33% of economists. Elite-college economists were also hotter than economists at other types of institutions (33% vs. 20%). The least hot economists were at community colleges, where only 14% were judged hot, versus 27% for all rated faculty at community colleges and 27% for economists at other types of institutions.

At the school level, economists were hotter than the respective faculty at 9 of the 32 institutions and cooler at 23. Economists were hotter at 5 of 8 Ivy League institutions ( Columbia , Cornell, Dartmouth , Penn, and Yale), 3 of 8 elite colleges (Amherst, Wellesley, and Wesleyan), 1 of 8 public universities (Berkeley), and 0 of 8 community colleges.

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