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Why Beauty Matters

  • Mobius, Markus
  • Rosenblat, Tanya

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: (a) physically attractive workers are more confident and higher confidence increases wages; (b) for a given level of confidence, physically attractive workers are (wrongly) considered more able by employers; (c) 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. Our methodology can be adopted to study the sources of discriminatory pay differentials in other settings.

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3043406/mobius_beauty.pdf
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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3043406.

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Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in American Economic Review
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3043406
Contact details of provider: Postal: Littauer Center, Cambridge, MA 02138
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Fax: 617-495-7730
Web page: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/

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  1. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James J. Heckman, 2000. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," JCPR Working Papers 154, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  3. Andreoni,J. & Petrie,R., 2004. "Beauty, gender and stereotypes : evidence from laboratory experiments," Working papers 6, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  5. Claudia Goldin & Cecilia Rouse, 1997. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of 'Blind' Auditions on Female Musicians," Working Papers 755, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Jeff E. Biddle & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1995. "Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," NBER Working Papers 5366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
  9. Solnick, Sara J. & Schweitzer, Maurice E., 1999. "The Influence of Physical Attractiveness and Gender on Ultimatum Game Decisions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 199-215, September.
  10. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
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