There are numerous examples of Chinese speakers avoiding the number “4” because it sounds like the Mandarin word for death; the Wikipedia page on “Tetraphobia” documents several examples. My NYU colleague Adam Alter recently published an article in the New Yorker discussing some of his work on how cultural beliefs can have economic and financial significance. After I read his article, I was curious whether Chinese freelancers on oDesk are less likely than expected to use the number 4 in their profiles. It seems like they are:
Note that we would expect different countries to “naturally” have different fractions of 4’s given that different countries tend to occupy different parts of the oDesk wage distribution. To make this plot, I took a sample of countries with at least as many freelancers as China.