LONDON — Good news if you’ve been told you’re either “very attractive” or “very ugly” — there’s a decent chance you earn more money than those around you, according to a study.
Researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Massachusetts have been able to somewhat dispel a pervasive theory regarding attractiveness, commonly referred to as a “beauty premium” or the “ugliness penalty.” Previous studies have found that those who are good-looking command higher wages in their employment. This phenomenon has been seen in a wide range of professions, from business to law.
It turns out that people aren’t necessarily discriminated against because of their appearance, the researchers determined.
For their analysis, Satoshi Kanazawa and Mary Still, the study’s co-authors, examined a dataset pulled from a popular survey looking at adolescents, the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, also known as “Add Health.” The survey is notable in that it measures physical attractiveness for a given individual in four installments over a period of 13 years, doing so on a five-point scale.
In their analysis, Kanazawa and Still write that while more attractive individuals often out-earned their less attractive peers, this was often due to the presence of other qualities. Those qualities being smarter, healthier, calmer, more extroverted, and more conscientious.
“Physically more attractive workers may earn more, not necessarily because they are more beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better personality traits conducive to higher earnings,” says Kanazawa in a statement.
Attractiveness can be beneficial either way, for some
Interestingly, those who were categorized by Add Health as being “very unattractive” were also higher earners. They always outearned those who were deemed “merely unattractive,” and in some cases made more money than individuals of average and above-average attractiveness.
The finding that those on the far end of either side of the beauty spectrum make a better living was likely skipped over in previous studies because individuals less attractive than average were all lumped into one category.
In addition, few studies have examined all of the combined factors that Kanazawa and Still took into account.
The study is published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.