La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Positive externalities

I've spent over 12 hours in the car since yesterday morning driving around Atlanta, looking at properties to rent. This means that posting will continue to be light, both in quantity and quality until I find a new home.

In the meantime, I offer the following for your consideration: a positive externality of being a professor is that most people believe professors are smart, honest, and responsible people. The reputation associated with professors is a positive externality of the profession.

I have two anecdotes to support this assertion. First, in a recent dispute with a VW service department in Texas, I believe my profession lent credibility to my claim that the dealership misrepresented its service record for my car to the corporate VW customer care office. The details are tedious and uninteresting.

Second, while looking for a property to rent these last 2 days, I sense that landlords are excited by the prospect of renting to a professor. Landlords usually ask what a potential renter does, and they get very eager to rent me their property when I tell them that I work at Tech. Is it because they assume that I am quiet and studious? Or because they are glad my employment is stable? Chris, did you have a similar experience during your trip to Durham?

What is driving that response among landlords? Will it work for speeding tickets? Will the positive externalities have lower marginal returns as I age and become more likely to have the reputation of an absent-minded professor?

Can anyone offer other examples of instances where the reputation associated with being a professor netted some unexpected benefit?

posted by Michelle @ 9:17 PM,


At 7/27/2005 10:02 AM, Blogger georgia07042 said...

I can say the opposite is true in one instance. Trying to date as a professor, particularly one in technology, has the effect of ending the conversation. On the other hand, it works nicely to weed the tools from the potential interesting fellows.

At 7/27/2005 12:09 PM, Blogger WTOTW said...

Interesting. My now-wife passed on a chance to be set up with me because I was a quantiative political scientist; we ended up meeting by chance anyway.

At 7/27/2005 12:36 PM, Blogger Chris Lawrence said...

I think being a professor has helped me out with landlords both in Jackson and Durham, particularly because of my relatively youthful appearance (I pass for early-to-mid 20s). Plus I think they reckon professors make more money than we really do.

At 7/27/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Yes, dating is a good counter example, especially for women. A friend of mine will soon have a PhD and a law degree and her dating prospects (besides being very attractive) are difficult unless she's in a large city.

I wouldn't date 95% of poli sci professors. And the other 5% are probably married. Luckily, I don't have to date at all.

At 7/27/2005 6:28 PM, Blogger Chris Lawrence said...

If my experience is any guide, your friend has nothing to worry about.


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