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Harvard research on lefties' earning capabilities

Lefties earn 10% less than righties



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Being a leftie, I’ve had more than my fair share of awkward situations. Using my ‘wrong’ hand to serve at a dinner table, having to use two right-handed desks at the examination hall, and dozens of clumsy handshakes.

And now, research tells me that my dominant hand could be causing me to earn 10% less than my rightie colleagues.

In the first study of its kind, Joshua Goodman, assistant professor at Harvard Kennedy School, studied samples from the US and from Britain over many years, to find that left-handed workers earn 10% to 12% lower salaries than their right-handed counterparts.

He attributes this phenomenon to the way that lefties’ brains are wired, which affects the kinds of jobs they go after. He found particular differences in the way that left-handers process language.

As a result, lefties tend to work in more manually-intensive occupations, or those requiring less creativity or less cognitive skills.

“The magnitudes of these handedness gaps are economically substantial. In these samples, the handedness gaps in cognitive skill and college graduation rates are equivalent to having a mother with two-thirds of a year less schooling,” he wrote in his paper.

“The earnings gap is even larger, the equivalent of having one less year of schooling or a mother with two fewer years of schooling.”

However, Goodman pointed out that the lower earnings of lefties come not as a result of working in such occupations, but simply because of the way in which our brains are structured. He stated this should not play a role in determining their abilities at work.

“I doubt that, for the most part, there are big differences in the way lefties and righties work in organisations,” he told Human Resources.

“I also would be very concerned about employers using handedness in deciding how to manage their employees or whom to hire. Employees should be managed and hired based on observations about their skills and talents, not their handedness.”

Image: Shutterstock



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Aditi Sharma Kalra

Human Resources Magazine Singapore
When not spending her time eating or watching dog videos, Aditi loves to read, write, and tweet about HR. She is managing print, digital and social content for Human Resources, across Singapore and Malaysia.

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