Putting a price on beauty

Handsomer men earn handsomer salaries, according to a recent Australian study. How much are your good looks worth?

Putting a price on beauty

Handsomer men earn handsomer salaries, according to a recent Australian study.. Those men who can boast above average good looks generally earn A$81,750 compared with A$49,600 for below-average looks. That means that a pretty face is worth a whopping A$32,150 for men – or around NZ$40,000.

Another way of describing the results: above average looking men earn 26% more than average looking men, and below average looking men earn 22% less.

The study was authored by Jeff Borland, an economist with Melbourne University, and Andrew Leigh, formerly economist with Australian National University (now a Labor MP). Door-to-door interviewers rated the appearance of their interviewees on a six-point scale – from ‘well below average’ to ‘very much more attractive than average.’

Leigh found widespread agreement among interviewers regarding the attractiveness of subjects. “It turns out that beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “There is a strong literature showing views about beauty are shared,” he added.

Not so good looking men were also less likely to be married, and less likely to be married to a woman on a high income.

But when it came to women, the results were murkier – the effect of good looks was smaller and harder to measure. “It could be that attractive women come up against the stereotype that they can’t be both attractive and intelligent. There’s no such thing as the dumb-blond syndrome for men,” Leigh surmised.

So should politicians consider legislating to protect the less beautiful against discrimination? Leigh thinks not. “You would run into all sorts of definitional problems and it would water down the importance of existing categories of discrimination,” he argued.

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