In fatal pursuit of immortal fame: Peer competition and early mortality of music composers

Karol Jan Borowiecki, Georgios Kavetsos

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We investigate the impact of peer competition on longevity using a unique historical data set of 144 prominent music composers born in the 19th century. We approximate for peer competition measuring (a) the number or (b) the share of composers located in the same area and time, (c) the time spent in one of the main cities for classical music, and (d) the quality of fellow composers. These measures suggest that composers' longevity is reduced, if they located in agglomerations with a larger group of peers or of a higher quality. The point estimates imply that, all else equal, a one percent increase in the number of composers reduces composer longevity by ~7.2 weeks. Our analysis showed that the utilized concentration measures are stronger than the personal factors in determining longevity, indicating that individuals' backgrounds have minimal impact on mitigating the effect of experienced peer pressure. The negative externality of peer competition is experienced in all cities, fairly independent of their population size. Our results are reaffirmed using an instrumental variable approach and are consistent throughout a range of robustness tests. In addition to the widely known economic benefits associated with competition, these findings suggest that significant negative welfare externalities exist as well.

TidsskriftSocial Science & Medicine
Udgave nummerJune
Sider (fra-til)30-42
StatusUdgivet - 1. jun. 2015

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