Beauty and the Worker - Part 4

• Health (healthier people earn more) — beauty may be related to health

• Union membership (increasing earnings)

• Marital status (positive effects among men, negative effects among women) — beauty may be related to whether you are married or not

• Race/ethnicity (minorities earn less than non-Hispanic whites)

• Size of city (higher earnings in bigger cities and in metropolitan as opposed to non-metropolitan and rural areas)

• Region (higher in the East than in the South)

• Nativity (immigrants earn less than natives)

• Family background (lower among people whose parents were immigrants)

• Size of company (higher in big firms) or plant (higher in larger plants)

• Years with the company (increasing earnings until late in a person's tenure with the company)

Numerous studies have shown that each of these factors affects earnings. Since most or even all of them might differ systematically with an individual's looks, to isolate the effect of looks on earnings we need to adjust earnings using data on as many of them as we can.

shows the average impacts of beauty combining data from the two samples of Americans in the 1970s. The penalties for below-average looks, and the premia for above-average looks, are based on statistical analyses that adjusted earnings for most of these other factors in order to isolate the effect of differences in beauty. An asterisk (*) denotes that the impact is statistically meaningful — that we can be fairly sure that looks have some effect on earnings.

TABLE 3.1 Percentage Impacts of Looks on Earnings, U.S., 1970s (compared to average-looking workers, rated 3), Adjusted for Many Other Determinants of Earnings

Beauty and the Worker

Note that these numbers are in the same directions as the numbers that did not account for all the other determinants of earnings. They do change — these other determinants of earnings do matter; but the basic conclusion, that there is a penalty to earnings for bad looks and premium pay for good looks, is unaltered. If asked, “What is the overall effect of looks on earnings in the U.S.?” the best answer, based on, is that the bottom 15 percent of women by looks, those rated as below- average (2 or 1), received 4 percent lower pay than average-looking women. The top one-third of women by looks, those rated as above-average (4 or 5), received 8 percent more than average-lookers. For men, the comparable figures are a 13 percent penalty and a 4 percent premium.

There is nothing written in stone about these numbers. No doubt, if other nationally representative data were available, the estimates of these effects would differ.

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