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Are Attractive People Rewarded With Better Grades and Higher Earnings?

Topics: Data & Research

We know that motivation, talent, and maybe a little bit of luck are a great recipe for success, but what if there are other factors at play as well? Does a person’s level of attractiveness impact the trajectory of their career? Let’s take a look at some of the latest research and information on the topic to discover whether or not attractive people are rewarded professionally for their looks.


(Photo Credit: Michael 1952/Flickr)

Let’s start by taking a look at grades.

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Do more attractive students earn better grades than others? Only females, it turns out. Inside Higher Ed‘s Scott Jaschik wrote an article recently about a study that was presented to the American Economic Association. The study found that among female students with comparable qualifications, the most attractive ones earned better grades. However, no significant link between appearance and grades was discovered for men. It should also be noted that these results held up whether the faculty member was male or female.

“Is it that professors invest more time and energy into the better-looking students, helping them learn more and earn the higher grades?” asked Rey Hernandez-Julian, one of the economists who conducted the study. “Or do professors simply reward the appearance with higher grades given identical performance? The likely answer, given our growing understanding of the prevalence of implicit biases, is that professors make small adjustments on both of these margins.”

It could be because of the power of the halo effect.

The concept of the halo effect has been around for almost 100 years. It’s used to describe the phenomenon whereby impressions of people form a kind of halo around our conceptions of their character. In other words, if someone looks good, we assume that other things about them are good as well. Research has found that the more face-to-face time a position entails, the more looks impact achievement and compensation. The wages of real estate brokers, for example, are significantly impacted by appearance.

“Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you see the agent on the billboard, and it’s an attractive picture,” said Sean Salter, who conducted the research on brokers, to U.S. News. “Your first impression is that this is an attractive person. So before you even hire this person to sell your home, you already have a positive impression of that person in your mind.”

So, how much do looks impact the bottom line?

One of the leaders in research related to how appearance impacts finances is labor economist Daniel S. Hamermesh. He estimates that, over the course of a lifetime, attractive people earn significantly more than those with average looks. Attractive women earn $230,000 more, and men earn as much as $250,000 more than counterparts of average appearance.

Another study found that height has an impact on salary. For every inch, workers can expect a salary increase of about $789 per year. This could have something to do with a variation in confidence levels for these folks growing up. They may form different networks, or go after more ambitious goals or professions.

One thing is clear: appearance really does make a pretty significant impact on our professional lives. It impacts schooling and grades, clients’ perceptions, and ultimately, earnings.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think your appearance has impacted your career? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Ayesha parveenDark Star Recent comment authors
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Ayesha parveen
Ayesha parveen

Yes I agree with this point. From my work experience I observed that the most beautiful ladies were hired and had priorities than who are less. Not only that I felt in an interview the directrice asked my background and my mother tongue even. That’s out of the question and I felt those questions were kind of racist. Sadly, in Quebec we are even though qualified are facing has to be stopped. Women should be judged by qualification, not… Read more »

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Dark Star

Unfortunately,… in school, at work, it seems all the so call ‘beautiful people’ get all the breaks. Even those whose ability at the same job are less than mine. And if they aren’t among ‘beautiful people’, then they get the breaks using office politics, misrepresentation of their skills or just plain nepetism. — Hard to get ahead in an honest and ethical way, when the system stacks the deck against you, by using a criteria that has nothing to do… Read more »

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