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Do Good Looking People Make More Money?

Do Good Looking People Make More Money?

You aren't a model and you thought your looks don't matter at work, think again. The truth is, looks do matter period.

Apparently, Dr Harmesh, Professor of Economics at the University of Texas, Austin has written a book on the subject - Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful . The crux of the matter is that for Americans, the beauty premium could translate to about $230,000 in lifetime earnings . And surprisingly, attractiveness has a greater impact on men's earnings, than women's. This was partly due to lesser women participation in the work force.

There's no such study available for Indians, but perhaps given our infatuation with fairness, we may have a similar 'fairness premium'. And I'm not fair. The Fair and Lovely ads would call me wheatish at best.

This partiality towards good looking people doesn't seem to be limited to any particular profession. Another study shows good looking lawyers can get early promotions or partnership compared to their average counterparts. Even in a controlled game scenario where professional skills don't matter at all, good-looking people earned 8-12% more than un-attractive people. A survey by a UCLA researcher found that good looks can even help employees earn a favour from boss!

We're hardwired that way

After spending considerable time and energy wondering whether I should succumb to the Olay advertisements, I decided to search for the reason behind this apparent bias toward good looks. Turns out, we're just wired that way.

For all our conscious efforts to be unbiased, good looks still govern our relationship with others. We hold attractive people in higher esteem in a bizzare halo effect. Though people usually state that personality and character are more important when interacting with another person, a study showed that the real correlation for likeability and interpersonal interaction is physical attractiveness . Well, either we don't know our minds, or we're just being dishonest to ourselves.

Looks or Confidence?

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people react positively towards a good looking person - for whatever reason - it is a characteristic affirmative feedback. It boosts their confidence levels and results in higher chances of success - whether at work, or in social situations. If this positive feedback starts right from childhood, the impact is cumulative and as any parent will tell you, can work wonders on the child's confidence levels - and hopefully future earnings. In his book The Social Animal , Elliot Aronson, suggests this effect extends to people who may not really be physically attractive, but believe they are. The benefits of higher level of self-worth and confidence extend to them as well.

So what is it after all? Is it truly that good looks translate to better pay? Or is it that good looks lead to being more likeable, more confident and having a higher sense of self-worth, that all add up to higher pay in the long run?

Whatever the reason, all this research does seem to confirm that physical attractiveness does impact your career—not just social relationships. Perhaps that's why the beauty industry is growing at such a phenomenal rate. I wonder whether it's time for me to join the bandwagon and look for some anti-aging cream. Perhaps, I would gleefully hack the beauty phenomenon by standing right in front of the mirror and telling myself I'm beautiful, while this music plays in the background.

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