4 Reasons Why Pretty People Earn More

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“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone.” I heard that line in a comedy long ago in the 1990s. I forget which one – but I think the late comedian and actor John Witherspoon uttered it. And the thing about funny jokes, jokes that make us laugh until we cry, is that they contain a nugget of truth. Jokes can be therapeutic and cathartic that way – they allow the comedic relief of tension about the realities of inequality and unfairness in the world. And please, believe me, you are going to need a stout sense of humor to handle what I’m going to say in this column. Here are four reasons why pretty people earn more money than ugly people.

Now, please understand that I, the writer of this piece, am not calling you ugly. What I am saying is that the world is unfair. You will be judged by your aesthetics by standards that are unfair, unreasonable, and unreasonable. Beauty can be judged by others based on facial features, race, politics, or personal and idealized standards of what they personally consider to be beautiful.

So, don’t let other people tell you that you’re ugly. Unfortunately, if the person who thinks you are ugly is signing your paycheck, then you have problems.

There is a lot of scientific research and study which suggests that pretty people earn more money than ugly people. And this is a standard that has probably existed for a long time. And it is a standard that will probably always exist in society.

So, you should know that such unfair standards in life. But that does not mean that you must accept them or play into them.

Why Pretty People Earn More (The Basics)

Before I go in-depth about why pretty people earn more, I will refer to the sources for this piece, research compiled by economists Dr. Daniel Hamermesh and Eva Sierminska.

According to Dr. Hamermesh’s research, pretty people earn more than 3% to 4% above the traditional salaries of average-looking and ugly people. What that means is that the average attractive person can earn $230,000 more over a working lifetime than an ugly person.

According to Dr. Hamermesh’s research, even a moderately attractive person can make over $140,000 more over a working lifetime than an ugly person.

And Dr. Hamermesh’s research estimates may be conservative compared to Sierminska’s. Sierminska says that pretty people earn more than 15% in their lifetime salaries compared to ugly people.

So, here are four reasons why pretty people earn more.

And then I will give you some reasons why probably shouldn’t lose sleep over these findings.

The Halo Effect

“The Halo Effect,” is a psychological bias that we project onto people based on their aesthetically pleasing outward appearance.

In other words, the more attractive a person is, the more we assume that they are trustworthy, intelligent, socially skilled, polite, confident, and entitled to get what they want.

So, pretty people earn more money because emotionally project their biases that they deserve more because they are pretty.

Physical Bias

It isn’t fair, but owing to the Halo Effect, employers believe that pretty people can handle anything. And that is one reason why you should never include your photo in a job application unless it is required.

A Harvard study found that employers who had access to the photos of job applicants would give a 10% higher salary to the applicants they found attractive.

Some employers would give higher salaries to people who sounded attractive to them in phone interviews.

Mo’ Makeup, Mo’ Money

Attractive women who wore more makeup than their ugly peers (I am sorry to put it that way, but let’s keep it real) were more likely to make more money.

Attractive Returns

Some studies suggest that CEOs who are attractive are more likely to attract investments to their companies whenever they gave public and televised interviews.

Should you necessarily lose sleep over these findings?

I don’t think so.

After all, these findings are buttressed on the aesthetic biases of the researchers.

Researcher Bias?

Take Dr. Hamermesh for example. In an infuriating and unbelievable interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said that pretty people earn more because they stand out in the hiring process, charm their employers, and get more opportunities for their employers.

According to Dr. Hamermesh, the only requirement to succeed in life, never mind professionally, is to be attractive.  And he said that since men benefit from the Halo Effect more than women, women should avoid professions where they will be penalized for their ugliness.

For example, Dr. Hamermesh says that ugly women, and people in general, should not become actors or TV broadcasters – they should do something that plays to other talents.

When pressed on what ugly people should do in unfair circumstances, Dr. Hamermesh suggested that ugly people resort to crime to survive.

I implore you to read his article with the Wall Street Journal I linked to. And instead of paraphrasing, here is his direct quote:

“The only counter-example I’ve seen is a study showing that if you [commit] armed robbery or theft, it pays to be uglier. The white-collar criminals are more successful if they are better-looking, but for crimes involving force, I’d rather be an ugly robber because I’d scare the guys and they’d give me their money faster.”

At the end of the interview, Dr. Hamermesh suggests that while plastic surgery could improve aesthetic features, it is cost-prohibitive for many and requires a lot of money for upkeep. But if ugly people want to get plastic surgery to make themselves feel better, they should do it.

I can’t believe I am relaying this B.S. to you.

What You Can Do

Yes, it is true that pretty people earn more money than average or ugly-looking people.

However, many people earn more money and opportunities professionally due to nepotism. And you don’t have to be pretty to benefit from having a powerful, politically connected, or uber-successful relative.

Many people climb the corporate ladder because of office politics and networking well.

People who dress well and professionally every day are more likely to succeed in work than slovenly dressed people.

And are you ready for this? There are studies that suggest that ugly people always make more money than attractive since they have to use intellect and skill to compensate for their aesthetic shortcomings.

Additionally, these studies claim that it is ugly people who make a lot more money professionally than attractive people.

And the gist of those studies says that while attractive people do make money, they are afforded much more easier lives and acceptance into social settings than ugly people. And that being attractive is not enough within itself to secure a big salary – or to keep it.

I don’t have to tell you that life is unfair. However, ugly exists within the eye of the beholder as much as the personal standard for beauty.

Excel at whatever you do. Finish your work on time. Keep paper and email trails that can verify your on-the-job successes. And make sure that your supervisors and boss know your name when you do good work.

You must be good at your job, intelligent, and experienced to be offered or negotiate a higher salary. Pretty people earn more according to the circumstances they find themselves in.

Yes, there are many circumstances where pretty people earn more just because they are pretty.

Still, while B.S. can take you to the top, it won’t keep you there.

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