Beauty and the Economist!
I have often come across psychological research on the biases towards beauty. But what would an economist think about it in the context of the labour market? Read Beauty and the Labour Market to know the extent of the beneficial effect of beauty in a labor market. The abstract makes worthy reading if you are in a hurry.
We examine the impact of looks on earnings using interviewers' rating of respondent' physical appearance. Plain people earn less than people of average looks, who earn less than the good-looking. The penalty for plainness is 5 to 10 percent, slightly larger than the premium for beauty. The effects for men are atleast as great as women. Unattractive women have labor force participation rates and are more likely to be married to men with unexpectedly low human capital. Better-looking people sort into occupations where beauty is likely to be more productive; but the impact of individuals' looks on their earnings is mostly independent of occupation, suggesting the existence of pure empoyer discrimination.Economists have even ventured to answer Why Beauty Matters. Abstract follows.
We decompose the beauty premium in an experimental labor market where `employers' determine wages of `workers' who perform a maze-solving task. This task requires a true skill which we show to be unaffected by physical attractiveness. We find a sizable beauty premium and can identify three transmission channels. (1) Physically attractive workers are more confident and higher confidence increases wages. (2) For a given level of confidence, physically-attractive workers are (wrongly) considered more able by employers. (3) Controlling for worker confidence, physically attractive workers have oral skills (such as communication and social skills) that raise their wages when they interact with employers.I find the explanations reasonable in a one-shot interview setting. However, what interests me more is the matrix of interactions between "beautiful" and "plain" types, and the repeated nature of those interactions! Does beauty still matter then or does it matter how effective and personable you are? Or one simply cannot generalise!