Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday dollars+sense: Good looks matter...

When I mentioned last week that people who are ugly do badly in job interviews I might have frightened you. I should have. In two decades of studies in Asia, Europe, the United States and Australia economists have consistently found that being good looking pays off.

It can get you votes in an election, get you a job that you would have otherwise not have got, or win clients.

And here's the surprise...

...good looks help men more than women.

A 1986 study using photographs and hypothetical job applications found that good looks helped men get on the short-list for both high and low level jobs.

For women they helped for only secretarial jobs.

A 1991 examination of MBA students found that the better they looked the more they earned on graduation, if they were male.

Good looks didn't help women at all on graduation, although they did help later when it came to earnings growth.

A landmark 1994 survey of thousands of Americans found that the men who the researchers assessed as having “below average” looks or “homely” looks earned 9 per cent less than the average. “Above average” or “handsome” men got 5 per cent more. For women the effect was more modest.

From advertising agents in Holland to lawyers in Michigan to university tutors in Texas - study after study has round that if you are good looking you'll get more customers and be better rated by your customers – all the more so if you are a man.

And looks are hard to change. A study of women in China conducted in part by Xin Meng of the Australian National University found that the use of cosmetics did very little to even the balance. The payoff in terms of additional earnings from buying make-up and the like was only 15 per cent of the amount spent.

Determination and gravitas can help. John Howard was assessed in a survey conducted by the ANU's Andrew Leigh with Amy King as being less attractive than 95 per cent of House of Representatives candidates.

He did alright. Until he was up against an especially good looking man.

Leigh and King found that good looks typically win you 1.4 per cent of the vote; less if you are a woman.

The ACT's new Opposition Leader looks good. They might at last be in with a chance.


Daniel S. Hamermesh, Jeff E. Biddle:
Beauty and the Labor Market NBER Working Paper 4518 National Bureau of Economic Research November 1993.

Jeff E. Biddle, Daniel S. Hamermesh:
Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre NBER Working Paper 5366 National Bureau of Economic Research November 1995.

Ciska M. Bosman, Gerard Pfann, Jeff E. Biddle, Daniel S. Hamermesh:
Business Success and Businesses' Beauty Capital NBER Working Paper 6083 National Bureau of Economic Research July 1997.

John Cawley: Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes NBER Working Paper 7841 National Bureau of Economic Research August 2000.

Daniel S. Hamermesh, Xin Meng, Junsen Zhang:
"Dress for Success - Does Pump Priming Pay?" NBER Working Paper 7167 National Bureau of Economic Research June 1999

Daniel S. Hamermesh,
"Beauty in the Classroom: Instructors' Pulchritude and Putative Pedagogical Productivity," Economics of Education Review, August 2005

Daniel S. Hamermesh
"Changing Looks and Changing 'Discrimination': The Beauty of Economists," Economics Letters, December 2000

Andrew Leigh, Amy King
Beautiful Politicians Australian National University 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Effect of Time Spent Grooming on Wages, Elon University, August 27, 2007