Need yet another reason it's good to be left handed, lefties earn
more. That's right there are studies supporting this fact.
Read the following article by Joel Waldfogel and you will agree.
It's well-known that many societies hold lefties in low esteem.
In Christian tradition, the devil is generally associated with the left hand; the word sinister
comes from the Latin for left, sinistra. Arabs have historically used the right hand for eating
and the left for, er, activities at the other end of the alimentary process. More scientifically,
left-handedness is related to a number of physiological conditions. Lefties have higher rates of high blood
pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and schizophrenia.
On the other hand, if you'll forgive the inevitable bad pun,
left-handedness is also linked with creativity. Leonardo da Vinci was a lefty, as were Michelangelo, Isaac
Newton, and Albert Einstein. Psychologists confirm that
left-handedness involves different brain function: While right-handed people seem to have better cognitive
skills on average, studies find that lefties are more common among the highly talented.
What's the economic effect of left- and right-handedness—who
makes more money, lefties or normal people? Thanks to two new studies, one from the United States
and another from the United
Kingdom, we have some answers. At least as far as
earnings are concerned, lefties have been unjustly slurred—if they're men.
There are two reasons to expect lefties to earn less, not more.
About 11 percent of the American population is left-handed (with slightly more men than women). Learning
and working in a world of machines designed for majority righties, lefties are at a disadvantage. Tools
like the screwdriver work well for both. But others, like the scissors and the standard classroom writing desk and the electric food
slicer and the band saw—not to mention writing from left to right, with all the smudges and blackened
fingers that entails—are explicitly designed for righties. This ought to make lefties less
productive. (Hence the basis for Ned Flanders'
Leftorium, the fictional store for left-handed people on The Simpsons.) In
addition, given the studies showing that lefties are more prone to certain illnesses, they would be
expected to spend less time in productive activity and, therefore, to earn less.
But that's not the case. In the new U.S. study, authors
Christopher S. Ruebeck of Lafayette College and Joseph E. Harrington and Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins
University looked at a representative sample of 5,000 men and women in the United States. Across the board,
they found no discernible difference between the average hourly earnings, and other characteristics, of
left- and right-handed people. Both groups earned an average of $13.20 per hour in 1993. They also had
identical average intelligence scores. The British study, by Kevin Denny of University College Dublin and
Vincent O'Sullivan of the University of Warwick, looked at about 5,000 people born in 1958 and found modest
earnings differences: 5 percent higher pay for male lefties relative to their right-handed counterparts and
5 percent lower pay for female lefties compared to female righties.
What's more noteworthy is that the pay difference appears
to increase with college education. In the U.S. study, college graduates overall earned an average of 30 percent
more than high-school graduates. And after accounting for other determinants of pay—age, intelligence, marital
status, and race and ethnicity—lefties with college education earned 10 to 15 percent more than their right-handed
counterparts. (The U.K. study did not look at the effect of college education on the earning power of lefties and
Lefties Earn More
The identification of two styles of thinking may help explain
why college-educated lefties make more. Psychologist Stanley Coren
defines "convergent" thinking as "a fairly focused
application of existing knowledge and rules to the task of isolating a single correct answer."
"Divergent" thinking, by contrast, "moves outward from conventional knowledge into unexplored
association." There may be an outsize number of lefty geniuses because lefties are more likely to
engage in divergent thinking. In an experiment in which subjects devised uses for pairs of common
objects, such as imagining that a stick and a can could together be a birdhouse, lefties on average
came up with nearly 30 percent more uses.
But the tendency toward greater aptitude in divergent thinking
holds only for male lefties. Psychologists don't know why this is the case. One hypothesis concerns
differing levels of fetal testosterone. This is just a possibility: Psychologists agree
that the relationship between left- and right-handedness and
brain function is still not well-understood. Whatever its cause, though, the male lefty advantage may
have an economic effect: The boost in earnings found in the U.S. study was associated with
left-handedness only for men. The study found no systematic difference between the pay of women lefties
and women righties, regardless of education or other factors.
These results suggest that education and an edge in divergent
thinking are a potent mix that put college-educated male lefties on top in the earnings game. Any practical
consequences? If your family's college fund runs short, you might send your lefty sons to college and the
rest of the brood to trade school. And if you're at a college mixer or alumni reunion looking for a mate
with high earning potential, you might keep an eye out for the guy who wears his watch on his right
Being left handed pays off! So if your buddies want to make fun
of you just know inside that Lefties earn more and they will someday work for you. Research is finally
catching up to the fact that southpaws are special, very special. Lefties earn more, who
would have thought.