BEAUTY AND THE LABOR MARKET - By Daniel S. Hamermesh and Jeff E. Biddle
Using data obtained from three independent studies (two in the United States and one in Canada), economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle present evidence of the statistically significant effect of one's personal beauty on his or her earnings. As support for their analysis they begin by addressing the issue of whether or not beauty can be effectively quantified and estimated by individuals within a society, and whether or not a society's beauty preferences remain sufficiently static over one's lifetime so that there will be relative consistency in rating over time: "... within a culture at a point in time there is tremendous agreement on standards of beauty, and these standards change quite slowly" (p. 1175). They go on to present the structure of their analysis wherein they seek to "determine whether standard earnings equations yield evidence of pay difference based on looks" (p. 1179) and "examine the extent of labor-market sorting by looks" (p.1179).
At the heart of the paper is an analysis of the data from the three studies. They first present a preliminary regression which seems to indicate that there is a significant impact of beauty on wages. They then address possible issues with the regression, such as idiosyncratic ratings by particular interviewers, omitted-variable bias, simultaneity problems, etc., providing evidence of non-issue and consecutive, adjusted regressions with each issue addressed. What results from this critical analysis is a reinforcement of the initial findings that "people who are better-looking receive higher pay, while bad-looking people earn less than average, other things equal" (p. 1187).
From these findings they note of particular interest the similarity between genders, suggesting that if anything the wages of men are affected at least as much by looks as the wages of women. However, one difference between the genders which does present itself in the data, according to Hamermesh and Biddle, is that a woman's looks will impact her very entrance into the labor market, and the economic effects of her looks extend beyond the labor market into what they call the marriage market: unlike their male counterparts, a woman's beauty is positively correlated with the potential earnings abilities of her husband.
The final part of the paper deals with establishing whether the effects of beauty on wages is a result of the productivity afforded by beauty, or whether it is a result of discrimination by employers. By categorizing industries where appearance is an obvious economic benefit (customer service, food service, sales) from those industries where there is no obvious economic benefit, they establish that there is indeed a robust effect on wages independent of industry, but that "beauty may be productive in some occupations perhaps as a result of customers' preferences" (p. 1192).
I am curious about:
1) Your opinion of the article if you choose to read it; and
2) Your experiences with the effects beauty has on earnings