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Beauty and the Labor Market

  • Daniel S. Hamermesh
  • Jeff E. Biddle

We develop a theory of sorting across occupations based on looks and derive its implications for testing for the source of earnings differentials related to looks. These differentials are examined using the 1977 Quality of Employment, the 1971 Quality of American Life, and the 1981 Canadian Quality of Life surveys, all of which contain interviewers' ratings of the respondents' physical appearance. Holding constant demographic and labor-market characteristics, 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 are slightly larger for men than women; but unattractive women are less likely than others to participate in the labor force 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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4518.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4518.

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Date of creation: Nov 1993
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as American Economic Review, vol 84, Dec. 1994, pp 1174-1194
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4518
Note: LS
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  1. Alan E. Dillingham & Marianne A. Ferber & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1994. "Gender Discrimination by Gender: Voting in a Professional Society," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 622-633, July.
  2. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
  3. Francine D. Blau & Andrea H. Beller, 1991. "Black-White Earnings Over the 1970s and 1980s: Gender Differences in Trends," NBER Working Papers 3736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Terza, Joseph V., 1987. "Estimating linear models with ordinal qualitative regressors," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 275-291, March.
  5. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
  6. Alan E. Dillingham & Daniel Hamermesh & Marianne Ferber, 1994. "Gender discrimination by gender: Voting in a professional society," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 622-633, July.
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