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The Economics of Being Beautiful

It is commonly said that attractive people have a happier, more successful life than their less attractive counterparts – but how does this affect your wallet?

Find out now: Is it better to buy or rent?

Not only do certain jobs require good looks, but a study by Daniel Hamermesh, an economist from the University of Texas, found that physically attractive women and men earn more than average and plain looking individuals in the labor market overall. In fact, attractive people also get bigger loans more easily than the lesser attractive of us – even though they are less likely to pay it back, according to The Economist. Why would this happen? People project positive traits onto attractive people.

Jobs Only for the Beautiful

There are the obvious positions that are based on looks like modeling, acting or other fields of performance. However, celebrities are not the only people that get paid for being attractive. Some people without fame on any screen get paid to attend parties or bring their friends to venues. Promoters seem to live the dream – getting paid to party. But looking good is a prerequisite and the people you bring to the party better look good too. Even jobs that don’t explicitly rely on beauty are easier for attractive workers – like customer service professionals, public relations specialists and sales representatives. Evidence shows that attractive workers in these fields make more than their less attractive coworkers.

Job Perks of the Beautiful

Appearance now has a larger impact on earnings than education. The “pulchronomics,” or the economics of beauty, dominate all types of careers. Hamermesh’s most recent book “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful” states that based on today’s averages wages, a good-looking worker in America is likely to earn an average of 3-4% more than the earnings of someone with below-average looks. Over a lifetime, he surmised that would mean $230,000 more for the attractive employee. Further down the scale, an average-looking person is likely to make $140,000 more than an ugly worker, Hamermesh projects. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he explains, “Better-looking people bring in more for the employers, just as a more intelligent worker will. Paying them more is still a form of discrimination, but their attractiveness also tends to raise their productivity.”

A Beautiful Mind

There is evidence that attractive employees bring in more business so these workers charm interviewers, get hired more quickly, and are more likely to get raises. In related research, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, found that attractive people tend to have a higher intelligence than ugly people. Maybe the pay scale is fair after all.

Of course, there is no real way to combat this beauty curve.  But while we cannot all wake up and look like Gwenyth Paltrow or George Clooney, we can make an effort to present our best possible selves. It is always beneficial to appear clean and well maintained for any career. And you may want to separate yourself from the most beautiful coworker in the room…

And remember: beauty isn’t everything. Whether you are beautiful, ugly or somewhere in between, job performance will play into your career. Above all, emphasize your best skills and stand out in a positive way based on your traits.

Photo Credit: omoo

Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz's articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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