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It’s Official: Pretty People Get Paid More

Wondering why your friend or colleague is out-earning you? It could be because they’re better looking.

Research shows it’s not just movie stars who can benefit from their looks. Regular attractive people still get better grades at school and uni, are more likely to get job interviews and get promoted sooner.

Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas, wrote a book called ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.’ He found that attractive people earn an average of three or four per cent more than people with below-average looks.

For men, being handsome means making 13 per cent more during his career than a “looks-challenged” peer, according to calculations in his book. Hamermesh says that beauty is scarce, “and that scarcity commands a price.”


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Never fear though, Hamermesh says you can still be ugly and successful.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said “don’t go into an occupation where looks matter a lot. Don’t be a TV broadcaster; be a radio broadcaster. Don’t be a movie actor. Most important, go into fields that you enjoy, and that you have an advantage in doing. Accentuate your strengths, and try to avoid those things where you are relatively disadvantaged.”

Great advice. But even in the job searching stage, the same bias exists. Italian researchers from the University of Messina found beautiful women applying for jobs had a call back rate of 54 per cent and handsome men a rate of 47 per cent.

Less attractive applicants only had a call back rate of 7 per cent for women and 26 per cent for men.

And it’s not just the workforce guilty of playing favourites.

According to a study by Rachel Gordon, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois, children who were better-looking reported higher levels of teacher attention, more friends and less depression.

This led to better marks, but it was unclear whether this was because extra praise increased confidence and felt encouraged to ask for help, or whether teachers just favour attractive kids more.


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So if it’s all sounding a little depressing, just remember the pendulum swings the other way too.

In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenzano made world headlines for being fired from Citibank for supposedly being “too hot” and distracting male co-workers. Then in 2012, there was Melissa Nelson, the dental assistant fired for being too “irresistible” and a “threat” to her boss’s marriage.

So the moral of the story here is to be beautiful enough to get the job, promotion and pay rise. But not too beautiful that it gets you fired.

Image: ABC, Modern Family