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Women: Wear Makeup, Make More Money?

Topics: Data & Research

Generally speaking, women earn less than men (74 cents on the dollar, to be exact, or 97 cents if we look at men and women in similar jobs). They also spend more on grooming products ($15,000 on makeup alone, according to Mint). The latter fact has been called the Pink Tax, and it’s another example of how women are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to managing their professional lives. Why? Because it turns out that spending money on beauty products, far from a frivolous indulgence, might be a smart investment for women who want to make more money.

attractiveness premium
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Earlier this summer, a study in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility found that while attractive people make more money in general—20 percent more, in fact—women’s “attractiveness premium” was entirely due to grooming (makeup, hair-styling, etc.), while only half of men’s attractiveness premium was because of their grooming habits.

The study authors write that the findings “findings underscore the social construction of attractiveness, and in doing so illuminate a key mechanism for attractiveness premia that varies by gender.”

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The obvious upside to this research is that (almost) anyone can learn how to apply makeup and do their hair. The downside is that “women’s grooming,” in the gender-stereotypical sense, is a lot more expensive and labor-intensive than men’s, the beard trend notwithstanding.

Writing about the study, Ana Swanson at The Washington Post says:

“In a highly unscientific poll, 27 of my female colleagues at The Washington Post reported putting an average of five products on their face that morning, and keeping two additional pairs of shoes at their desk. The two male colleagues I asked averaged half a product and one extra shoe each.”

Bottom line: it probably makes sense for women who want to get ahead to pay attention to grooming, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fair—or that pay equity will come at the end of a makeup brush.

“It gives me another way to think of the mechanisms that are creating gender inequality in our society,” study author Jaclyn Wong said in a statement, reported by AOL. “It’s something that constantly sits in the back of my mind as I do my other work: what’s different for women that might not matter for men? What are some of the pressures women face that men don’t?”

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever changed your appearance, and seen a pay increase as a result? Tell us about it at Twitter, or leave a comment.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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When I was a poor college student, my appearance didn’t matter to me, I was a Jean and T-shirt type of girl, I was practical in what I wore considering I was a Painting and Architecture major who would be in studio or the wood shop getting dirty and it become a habit for me to dress that way. While I was helping out my Fashion Design major roommate by volunteering to be her models on a project, first day… Read more »

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