June 29, 2015

New report: Physically attractive people earn 15% more than plainer colleagues


A new report by economist Eva Sierminska, just published on IZA World of Labor, shows that good-looking people earn higher wages than those who are less attractive.

Eva Sierminska said, “Our societies reward investments in physical appearance. Contrary to some expectations, men benefit more in the labor market from investing in good looks than women.”

Research shows that:

  • Physically attractive workers earn up to 15% more than those considered less or unattractive
  • The beauty pay gap is larger for men than for women
  • Good looking employees benefit their employer, especially if their job demands interaction with customers or clients, because people prefer to interact with attractive people
  • The beauty gap starts in childhood with beautiful children attracting more attention and developing more confidence than their "plainer" peers
  • Good-looking people are paid higher wages to do the same jobs as less attractive peers
  • Attractive people receive far more call-backs for interviews, indicating employers judge that plainer applicants will be less capable in their jobs

The report states that conventionally attractive people receive between 10 and 15% more money to do their jobs that those considered “homely.” Less attractive people must work harder and be more productive in order to achieve the same wage.

Empirical results support the existence of a “beauty premium” in society: One study shows that attractive workers increase a firm’s revenue by more than the money it takes to cover their higher wages, so their good looks do enhance the profitability and success of the firm.

The report states that the effects of appearance on wages are stronger for men than for women. Good looking men receive higher salaries right from the beginning of their careers but women’s salaries do not show a “beauty effect” at the start of their careers. The better-looking women earn more as their career develops. The effect of beauty also differs between the genders with age: good looking older men continue to earn more, whereas the beauty wage gap decreases for older women.

Sierminska argues that anonymous job applications and implementing a ban on photographs on applications are two policy measures which would decrease appearance-based hiring discrimination.

Report URLhttp://wol.iza.org/articles/does-it-pay-to-be-beautiful

Noted economist Daniel S. Hamermesh, author of Beauty Pays, said: “Sierminska presents a thorough and succinct summary of the issues in studying the role of beauty in the labor market and the now-substantial body of economic and related research on that topic.  If you want to learn about this increasingly important issue and get the facts and questions quickly and clearly, this is the place to do it.”

About the author:

Eva Sierminska is a Research Economist at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Institute, a Research Fellow at DIW Berlin, and Research Fellow at IZA (Institute for the Study of Labor) in Bonn.

Media Contact:

Please contact Sarah Williams at Bloomsbury for more information, for author comments and interviews - Sarah.Williams@Bloomsbury.com

Notes for editors:

  • IZA World of Labor (http://wol.iza.org) is a global, freely available online resource that provides policy makers, academics, journalists, and researchers, with clear, concise and evidence-based knowledge on labor economics issues worldwide.
  • The site offers relevant and succinct information on topics including diversity, migration, minimum wage, youth unemployment, employment protection, development, education, gender balance, labor mobility and flexibility among others.
  • Established in 1998, the Institute for the Study of Labor (www.iza.org) is an independent economic research institute focused on the analysis of global labour markets. Based in Bonn, it operates an international network of about 1,300 economists and researchers spanning more than 45 countries.