Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful

Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful

Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful

Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful


Most of us know there is a payoff to looking good, and in the quest for beauty we spend countless hours and billions of dollars on personal grooming, cosmetics, and plastic surgery. But how much better off are the better looking? Based on the evidence, quite a lot. The first book to seriously measure the advantages of beauty, Beauty Pays demonstrates how society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life. Noted economist Daniel Hamermesh shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, work more productively and profitably, receive more substantial pay, obtain loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses. Hamermesh explains why this happens and what it means for the beautiful--and the not-so-beautiful--among us.

Exploring whether a universal standard of beauty exists, Hamermesh illustrates how attractive workers make more money, how these amounts differ by gender, and how looks are valued differently based on profession. He considers whether extra pay for good-looking people represents discrimination, and, if so, who is discriminating. Hamermesh investigates the commodification of beauty in dating and how this influences the search for intelligent or high-earning mates, and even examines whether government programs should aid the ugly. He also discusses whether the economic benefits of beauty will persist into the foreseeable future and what the "looks-challenged" can do to overcome their disadvantage.

Reflecting on a sensitive issue that touches everyone, Beauty Pays proves that beauty's rewards are anything but superficial.


I got involved in studying the economics of beauty in a curious way. Early in 1993, I noticed that the data I was using on another research project included interviewers’ ratings of the beauty of the survey’s respondents. I thought it would be fun to think about how beauty affects earnings and labor markets generally. the result was the first of the six refereed scholarly papers that I have published on this topic. a serious difficulty for me in this line of research has been that many economists find work on this topic, and even this kind of topic, to be beyond the scope of economic research. That kind of narrowmindedness has conspired in the past to make economics appear boring in the eyes of many non-economists. As the work of Gary Becker, Steve Levitt, and, to a much lesser extent, my own has shown, economic research can be anything but boring. Many of the topics that we work on, and on which serious economic thinking can shed light, are fun and involve issues that could not be understood using the methods of any other scholarly discipline.

I began working nearly twenty years ago to discover what economics has to say on the topic of physical appearance. Many . . .

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