The Economics of Beauty – Are Attractive People More Successful?



Last week  I went to hear Economist Daniel S. Hamermesh at the Rotman School of Business.  Professor Hamermesh spoke about his research and provocative book BEAUTY PAYS: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.

“Ugly people earn less than average-looking people, and average-looking people earn less than the beautiful,” reported University of Texas Professor Hamermesh.

Here are some interesting facts: The average man spends 32 minutes a day washing, dressing and grooming and the average woman spends 44 minutes a day. Professor Hamermesh said that everyone thinks that beauty is a female thing when in fact, in terms of earnings; it is more a male thing. Unattractive women make 12% less than attractive women, but unattractive men make 17% less than attractive men.

It seems that getting plastic surgery might make you feel better but it doesn’t appear to help earning potential.  His advice?  Suck it up, live with it, and take advantage of your good characteristics. This is only one of many things that matter.

I was glad to read that part!

I often considered having my nose reconstructed when I was younger. Then one day, I made the decision that this is who I am and I was not going to change a thing.  Although I must say that for many, having plastic surgery is a self-confidence builder, and why not?  Maybe you will not end up looking like an amazon beauty but you’ll feel better about yourself and that alone can help you attract people and money.

Some who are look-challenged do have an edge… take the armed robber for example. Sure, if an ugly guy comes up to you with a gun, he is scarier  than a good looking dude and you are most likely to give in faster.  Apparently, we choose an occupation where the skills that we posses in abundance have a chance to bring the biggest monetary and non-monetary rewards, and where the rewards for the good looks that one lacks are less important.

The book is interesting to read and may discourage some.  Good looking people are happier and earn more…But remember the old adage, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’

Many perceive themselves as bad looking when in fact they are not.

Often it is what we do with what we have that makes us look not as good-looking as we actually are.

What do you think? In your work experience, do you think attractive people are generally more successful? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Diane Craig, President and founder at Corporate Class Inc. has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in business dress and professional decorum. In a personal one on one consultation she’ll provide a clear commitment to respect individual style and special preferences and can indeed help make a better “you” in a manner which is invariably enjoyable, informative and inspiring.



  1. says

    Hello Anna,

    These are all good questions. First impressions are so important for interviews. Often, just as you walk in and even before you shake hands, some interviewers will have already decided whether you are a potential candidate or not. The first thing they see is how you look. Dress, hair, makeup, nails, accessories, shoes…

    Let’s get to your questions.

    1) Hair: I would suggest you cover the grey, it is usually more youthful. Cover with some blonde highlights, as it grows out, the roots will not be as noticeable.
    2 )Wearing a suit at an interview: It is still the number one appropriate attire especially in most conservative businesses. Of course if you are applying for a job in a more creative field, the suit would not be your first option unless there is something really different about it. A smart dress with sleeves is another option. Anna, I am not sure where you are located and difficult for me to expand on regional dressing.
    3) Interviewers seem to close their openness as soon as they meet me: This tells me the first impression you make needs some adjustments. That is your show stopper.

    My suggestion: Go to the library and pick up some books about dressing for your body proportions, reach out to an image consultant in your area, or contact us directly, we do offer skype consulting and one-on-one teleseminar. We did a series of blogs called “A Personal Journey”. This will give you an idea as to how we proceed.

    Please let us know when you are successful finding a job!

  2. Anna Zappia says

    Diane, I have seen a number of articles recently concerning ‘beauty’ and its impact on not just how much a person earns, but also in landing new opportunities. As a mature worker seeking employment, I am faced with the dilemma of whether or not to dye the streaks of gray out of my hair, to wear trendier clothes (I read that wearing a business suit to an interview is a no-no) and how to lose those pounds gained over the years (my clothes fit well and I carry my weight well without looking out-of-control obese). I am attractive, but not beautiful. I have a great laugh and engage people well, looking into their eyes when speaking with them. I speak openly and honestly, that is without guile, during conversations, yet find that interviewers seem to close their openess as soon as they meet me.
    So what do you recommend for the over 50 applicant? Would really appreciate your thoughts and advice.

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