Do Attractive People Earn More Money?

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Okay I won’t make you read the whole post to find out. Yes! Pretty people earn more than ugly people. Don’t believe me? Check out this short article “The Economics of Good Looks: The Line of Beauty.” In particular, I would like to focus on this revealing paragraph:

“Physically attractive women and men earn more than average-looking ones, and very plain people earn less. In the labour market as a whole (though not, for example, in astrophysics), looks have a bigger impact on earnings than education, though intelligence—mercifully enough— is valued more highly still.”

I had always known that pretty women get better treatment in everyday life, but I didn’t know that their privileges had extended into the work place.  Is there nowhere that less attractive people can rule in peace? Oh, right. Astrophysics. Yay.

Let me further infuriate my fellow less attractive readers with the following excerpts:

1. “Homely NFL quarterbacks earn less than their more comely counterparts, despite identical yards passed and years in the league.”

2. “A Chinese study confirms that the husbands of unappealing women earn about 10% less than those of their dishier counterparts.”

3. “Attractive people also have an easier time getting a loan than plain folks, even as they are less likely to pay it back.”

4. Attractive people “receive milder prison sentences and higher damages in simulated legal proceedings.”

5. “In America more people say they have felt discriminated against for their appearance than because of their age, race or ethnicity.”

These facts seem silly and incredibly superficial, right? That’s what I was thinking as I read the article. I mean this is The Economist, right? Then why do I feel like I’m reading People magazine? We are so used to talking about salaries in a formal, business-like manner, attributing higher salaries to the intelligent and hard-working employees. But, then this article comes out, and it throws me off guard.  We typically ignore this part of our society, sweep it under the rug, pretend it isn’t actually how things run, etc. We pretend that we are an unbiased society that is able to look past the exterior when judging others.  But we aren’t.

The reality is this: we, as human beings, are hardwired to respond more positively to beauty than to comeliness. It’s rather embarrassing in some ways. We don’t want to be considered shallow, but we can’t change our brain’s software.

So, while these sobering facts about the fate of less attractive people are disturbing, we can’t necessarily point fingers at anyone. In fact, if you simply insist on pointing a finger at someone, point it at yourself because, at some point in your life, you have treated someone better simply because they were attractive. Don’t even try to deny this one.

For myself, I think about the fact that I favor the cuter toddlers in the nursery. This is something that I became aware of a few years ago. At first, I admit, I was appalled that my bias behavior extended to little kids. But, since then, I have worked on my shallow behavior, and can honestly say that I walk into nurseries with an unbiased mindset. Each child has a blank slate in my mind. If little Janie throws a temper tantrum, I make a mental note, and her slate gets a frowny face. But, if little Janie gives me a hug and says I’m her favorite, the frowny face gets replaced with a smiley face, and she gets some extra Cheerios. Oh come on, I kid. But seriously, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with a bias attitude toward the cuter kids.

So, if there’s no one to point a finger at, what do we do about this? Nothing. Maybe my soapbox is losing it’s power, but that’s the truth of the matter. There’s nothing you can do. Pretty people, enjoy the free bonus. Ugly people, it’s not fair, but suck it up and deal with it. Welcome to life: it’s not fair. I know this is a harsh place to leave on, but don’t be too mad at me because I have a post coming up from someone who goes out of his way to hire ugly people rather than pretty people. Sound intriguing? It is. Stay tuned.

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2 thoughts on “Do Attractive People Earn More Money?

  1. Wow. Depressing but shockingly refreshing. This is something that is often overlooked. It’s crazy to think that this is the most prevalent form of discrimination in today’s society. And how do we change it? How do we change our own perspective when we are so innately drawn to the attractive?

    • I agree. We often overlook this issue because it seems trivial and superficial. I honestly do not think that it will change. I would simply suggest that, if your looks are not as good as you would like, make sure you are as nice, pleasant, respectful, and hard-working as you can be. Go the extra mile.

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