I love lefties

by on August 9, 2006 at 6:00 am in Data Source | Permalink

Highly educated people earn more if they are left-handed.  The pay gap, relative to right-handers, is especially strong for those with low earnings relative to their level of education (e.g., academics).  If they are men they earn 15 percent more.  Here is the paper.

This earnings result appears ungrounded but it does not surprise me.  Left-handers have idiosyncrasies, obsessions, and downright insanities which lift some of them into productivity heaven.  If they are not earning a lot they probably love what they do.

I like other left-handers (yes I am one) at a disproportionately high rate and they fit disproportionately into the right-hand-tail of the distribution of my liking.  One of my absurd beliefs is that I can tell which people are
left-handers simply by observing their personalities and their charming bits of ever so slight yet always on the surface awkwardness.

Did you know that lefties also have higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome? 

For some odd reason, I play all sports but basketball with my right hand.

DK August 9, 2006 at 8:05 am

How do people with low earnings “earn more”? do you mean “if they are in a profession with low earnings for the level of education” (i.e. government, journalism)?

I work in quant finance, and I would have trouble naming people in my field who don’t have some idiosyncrasies or “slight yet always on the surface awkwardness”

Tyler Cowen August 9, 2006 at 8:14 am

DK, they earn more relative to comparable right-handers. I’ve reworded the opening to make this clearer.

mkl August 9, 2006 at 9:32 am

Unfortunately, lefthandedness does not pass along well. All 4 of my kids are righties, darnit!

Michael Stack August 9, 2006 at 9:37 am

Generally, if I learned how to play a sport, or perform a task on my own, I do it left-handed. If the task requires a piece of equipment that’s tailored to a particular hand (like a golf-club), then I perform it right-handed. I throw right-handed, but shoot baskets left-handed.

That always struck me as odd.

Bill Harshaw August 9, 2006 at 10:18 am

There’s a very good book by a Brit on the subject–see http://www.righthandlefthand.com/

Did you know that handedness implicates the structure of the universe?

David Tufte August 9, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Tyler – did you have an older brother or father who was right handed to teach you those sports?

I am mostly righty, but I play hockey left-handed. It was my older (left-handed) brothers favorite sport when I was growing up.

fasolamatt August 9, 2006 at 1:19 pm
Max August 9, 2006 at 2:28 pm

“Left-handers have idiosyncrasies, obsessions, and downright insanities…”

I feel much relieved to see someone else has noticed this. Years ago when I was a baseball player I noticed
left handed pitchers could never wear their caps straight, (this refers,of course, to those pure lefties who’s right arm served no other purpose other than as a counter weight to keep them from falling over). So, whenever I came to the plate I was never sure whether they were looking at the catcher or somewhere up the first base line. My suspicions were somewhat confirmed by a story former Baltimore Orioles pitching coach, Ray Miller, used to tell. Seems he would get frustrated with lefty pitchers while running wind sprints. They could never run in a straight line and were always running into the other pitchers. Finally, he figured out if he started the lefties on the side of a hill they would all be in a straight line by the time they reached the finish line.

Patrick August 9, 2006 at 6:58 pm

Isn’t it just that leftys have a larger variance in results? So more people at the top, and more at the bottom? Kind of like comparing men to women, men are all the billionaires, and the street drunks.

More data, lefties make up a large percentage of astronauts (the cumulation of years of selection and hard training) and boxers (but there there is an explanation , in the lower levels, a righty has trouble adjusting to the “unusual” lefty, so they get a bit of a free ride until they reach the levels where leftys are no longer unusual).

Lefties also have much higher rates of death by accident, and murder. The last one I don’t get, unless it’s a function of also being more likely to be a drunken bum.

Martin August 10, 2006 at 3:06 am

One full of left-handed Mexican immigrants.

Howard August 15, 2006 at 12:28 pm

You want weird on the sports front, here goes:

I am left-handed – I write with my left hand. When it comes to sports, my right hand is the dominant one for throwing and related motions. It is my dominant hand for baseball, football and basketball. However, when it comes to racket sports, my left hand dominates. I play tennis and table tennis with my left hand. Here’s the kicker – the service motion is tennis is reasonably close to a throwing motion. As a result, I serve right-handed and then immediately switch to my left hand to play the remainder of the point. I have played multiple sets of tennis where at the end, my opponent would point out that there was something odd about my style but that he wasn’t sure what.

Brad McCall October 5, 2006 at 3:24 pm

I am also left-handed, and also play sports right handed! I also suffer from IBS. So in terms of your questions… I guess I’m like you. I have trouble with baseball mostly – I want to catch and throw with my right hand… oh and the violin is completely impossible for me.

Andrew December 8, 2006 at 7:08 pm

Hey Howard,

I feel your pain. I’m the exact same. I don’t understand it. In a ping pong game I’ll be switching hands all the time. My oppenents think I’m some freak because I do it so fast. We’ll be in the middle of a rally and the ball will come to my right hand, and I’ll quickly switch hands in mid air and smash the ball with my right. And I serve with my right hand and then quickly throw it to my left hand. Don’t know why, but I’d like to find out what’s going on in my brain for me to do these things. It’s every sport except racket ones. Write/Eat with my left.

Artjag October 21, 2008 at 9:59 am

I once sat on a ferry to Vancouver Island with a young lady. She told me her Father wrote a paper on left handers being actually “oxygen deprived at birth”. He is a prof I believe @ UBC Canada…
Many famous people I have met are lefties. Bill Clinton, Bob Tullius and more. I am predominantly left handed, however I am right eyed. how about the rest of the lefties out there.
Bye for now, Artjag.

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