Over the years there have been plenty of attempts to prescribe particular character traits to those of us who are left handed or right handed. Left handed people are, for instance, often described as being more creative and naturally talented.
Despite this perception, a recent study suggests that left handed people seem to lose out when it comes to wages in the workplace. The study, authored by researchers at Harvard’s Kennedy School, does not paint a good picture for the left handed amongst you, who are estimated to make up around 12 percent of the population.
The study revealed that when compared to their right handed peers, left handed employees scored 1/10th of a standard deviation lower on a scale of cognitive skill. What’s more, left handers were not particularly well represented at the top of this scale either.
Do left handers have a disadvantage in the labour market?
The author then revealed that this differential carries itself over into the labour market too, with our preference for one hand over the other an indication of a particular type of brain structure.
"If the structure of lefties’ brains affects the accumulation of skills, this may be reflected in labor market outcomes and measures of productivity. Left-handed individuals might fare poorly in the labor market not due to the manual nature of left-handedness, but as a consequence of the underlying neurological wiring that leads to it," he revealed.
The paper went on to suggest that the primary disadvantage of being left handed was not a manual one but rather a cognitive one instead.
The importance of your mum
Interestingly, it transpired that the preference of your mother plays a bit part. If your mum is right handed and you’re left handed, it seems you suffer the cognitive disadvantage, but the same applies if the roles are reversed. If you’re both left handed, however, no such disadvantage appears to exist.
"Intriguingly, the right-handed children of left-handed mothers exhibit cognitive gaps similar to those of left-handed children. In short, mismatch between parental and child handedness appears to be a key factor in the association between handedness and cognitive deficits. This may suggest that nurture is an important component of the handedness penalty, though other explanations cannot be ruled out," the paper explains.
When this theory was then taken into the labour market, it transpired that left handed males were found to earn around $2,500 less than their right handed peers. When they explored the UK market, the gap was slightly less but still amounted to £1,300 a year or 5 percent.
Amazingly, this gap was even larger for the females in the study. It emerged that left handed women earned $3,400 less than their right handed peers, which was a whopping 19 percent gap.
Why was this? Well, the paper suggests that this is still something to be determined, and the researchers vow to return to this in future studies.
"The paper leaves for future work the question of whether such gaps are caused by left-handedness or instead arise from other factors for which left-handedness is simply a proxy," it says.
Are you left handed yourself? How do your own earnings stack up against your right handed peers?