Looking good by doing good: CEO attractiveness and corporate philanthropy

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China Economic Review


We investigate the effect of male corporate managers' physical appearance—classified into unattractive, average-looking, and attractive—on the philanthropic decisions of Chinese listed firms. We find that compared to average-looking managers, those who rated as attractive do not engage more actively in corporate donations. On the contrary, the probability of donating is approximately 5% higher for unattractive managers than for average-looking managers; further, unattractive managers donate 95% more in charitable giving. To explain these findings, we propose a psychological channel through which physical appearance may influence male managers' charitable donations: Because altruistic behaviors may aggrandize individuals, managers conscious of deficits in their own physical attractiveness may engage in prosocial behavior to increase their attractiveness in the eyes of others. We find consistent evidence that the effect of managers' unattractiveness on philanthropic decisions is stronger in firms with weaker corporate governance; further, we find that the positive impact of corporate donation on financial performance observed in firms led by attractive and average-looking managers is substantially weaker in those firms led by unattractive managers.


Economics and Finance

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