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Does Beauty Matter in Undergraduate Education?


  • Deryugina, Tatyana
  • Shurchkov, Olga


Physically attractive individuals achieve greater success in terms of earnings and status than those who are less attractive. However, much about the mechanism behind this “beauty premium” remains unknown. We use a rich dataset to shed light on its nature at the college level. We find that students judged to be more attractive perform significantly worse on standardized tests but, conditional on test scores, are not evaluated more favorably at the point of admission. Controlling for test scores, more attractive students receive marginally better grades in some cases. Finally, there is substantial beauty-based sorting into areas of study and occupations.

Suggested Citation

  • Deryugina, Tatyana & Shurchkov, Olga, 2013. "Does Beauty Matter in Undergraduate Education?," MPRA Paper 53582, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:53582

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2010. "Ugly Criminals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 15-30, February.
    2. Arcidiacono, Peter & Hotz, V. Joseph & Kang, Songman, 2012. "Modeling college major choices using elicited measures of expectations and counterfactuals," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 3-16.
    3. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
    4. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Meng, Xin & Zhang, Junsen, 2002. "Dress for success--does primping pay?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 361-373, July.
    5. Markus M. Mobius & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 222-235, March.
    6. Dale, Stacy & Krueger, Alan B., 2011. "Estimating the Return to College Selectivity over the Career Using Administrative Earning Data," IZA Discussion Papers 5533, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Blundell, Richard, et al, 2000. "The Returns to Higher Education in Britain: Evidence from a British Cohort," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages 82-99, February.
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    9. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 8-15, February.
    10. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    11. Berri, David J. & Simmons, Rob & Van Gilder, Jennifer & O'Neill, Lisle, 2011. "What does it mean to find the face of the franchise? Physical attractiveness and the evaluation of athletic performance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 111(3), pages 200-202, June.
    12. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification using an Information Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 791-824.
    13. Kelly, Elish & O'Connell, Philip J. & Smyth, Emer, 2010. "The economic returns to field of study and competencies among higher education graduates in Ireland," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 650-657, August.
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    15. Rodney J. Andrews & Jing Li & Michael F. Lovenheim, 2012. "Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings: Evidence from Administrative Data in Texas," NBER Working Papers 18068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Fletcher, Jason M., 2009. "Beauty vs. brains: Early labor market outcomes of high school graduates," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 321-325, December.
    17. Thomas N. Daymonti & Paul J. Andrisani, 1984. "Job Preferences, College Major, and the Gender Gap in Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(3), pages 408-428.
    18. Biddle, Jeff E & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1998. "Beauty, Productivity, and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 172-201, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. LIU Xing & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2014. "Evaluating the effect of beauty on labor market outcomes: A review of the literature," LISER Working Paper Series 2014-11, LISER.
    2. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:4:p:677-683 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Oreffice, Sonia & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2016. "Beauty, body size and wages: Evidence from a unique data set," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 24-34.
    4. Deryugina, Tatyana & Shurchkov, Olga, 2015. "Now you see it, now you don’t: The vanishing beauty premium," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 331-345.

    More about this item


    Beauty; Undergraduate Education;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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