In Fatal Pursuit of Immortal Fame: Peer Competition and Early Mortality of Music Composers
Discussion Papers on Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark, 6/2015
40 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 8, 2015
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 imply 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 about 7.2 weeks. The utilized concentration measures are stronger than the personal factors included in the analysis in determining longevity, implying that individuals’ backgrounds have minimal impact on mitigating the effect of experienced peer pressure. The negative externality of peer competition is experienced also in all cities, fairly independent of their size. Our results are reaffirmed using an instrumental variable approach and are consistent throughout a range of robustness tests. Besides the widely known economic benefits associated with competition, these findings suggest that significant negative welfare externalities exist as well.
Keywords: Geographic concentration, well-being, mortality, urban history, culture
JEL Classification: D12, I12, N90, R11, Z19
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