Beauty and the Worker - Part 15

The evidence is mixed on this issue. Taking the data underlying the outcomes in and making the same adjustments for other factors, the premia for good looks, and the penalties for bad looks, are essentially the same for workers under and over age forty. This is not true in the data on attorneys. Following the attorneys over the first fifteen years of their careers, and adjusting for many of the factors discussed earlier in this chapter, there is a clear pattern. At the start of their careers, beauty has only a small effect on their earnings. The impacts of beauty on earnings rise with experience, which is very highly correlated with age in this group of attorneys.

One might think that beauty offers the young attorney advantages in building up a client base and that, as she acquires more experience, the work that she performed for clients who were attracted to her early in her career generates still more clients as her career progresses. This is the second possibility that I noted above. Among workers in occupations where earnings are less dependent on generating business, the effects discussed here may offset each other, as suggested by the absence of any difference in the earnings-beauty relationship by age in the United States generally. It is unlikely that there is any uniform pattern in the relationship between earnings and beauty across all countries and occupations. It depends on the specific nature of the occupation and on the specific factors that cause earnings to differ among its practitioners.


If you severely injured your back and couldn't work for years, your lost earnings would usually be compensated by the person or company whose negligence caused the accident. What if instead you were at work and a gas tank exploded, leaving your face severely scarred? Having read this far, you now know that your facial disfigurement means that you are likely to be earning less over the rest of your career. And if you had been severely disfigured in childhood, your entire career would have been different — your damaged looks would affect your earnings from the time you left school until retirement.

Should you be compensated for your potential loss of earnings? After all, your economic losses are just as real as if your back had been broken. My answer on this is yes; and the only economic question is how large your compensation should be. How much should you recover?

As soon as the first beauty study I wrote was made public and drew attention from the media, I began receiving calls from attorneys involved in personal-injury cases.

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