How much does being ugly really cost?

May 4, 2010 · 18 comments

I hope you aren’t clapping like my cartoon friend above. Being ugly may not only be a detriment to your social life, but it could also greatly hinder your financial potential. There have been numerous studies indicating a correlation between beauty and professional success. And the verdict is…. hot people make more.

Don’t believe me? A study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found that hotties-with-naughty-bodies make 5% more per hour than their average looking colleagues. Even worse, “unattractive” people were found to be making 8% less than average looking persons.

Not only do the attractive people make more money, but they also have a higher statistical shot at landing the job in the first place. Here’s a quote from a CNN article on the study…

After variables like education and experience are factored out, Fed researchers said the “beauty premium” exists across all occupations, and that jobs requiring more interpersonal contact have higher percentages of above-average-looking employees.

And here’s another snippet from a published study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences…

When someone is viewed as attractive, they are often assumed to have a number of positive social traits and greater intelligence.

That means beautiful people (like Justin Bieber) are not just gorgeous, but also perceived as smarter. Now I know why so many people think I’m a geenyus. Haha, get it… “Geenyus”. It’s funny ’cause I spelled it wrong. Man I’m unBIEBERlievable (yeah, I got the Bieber Fever).

Don’t worry though. Even if you are beat-up-from-the-feet-up or tore-up-from-the-floor-up, you still may have a chance at earning a decent wage. That is if you are tall. A study by two professors at the University of Florida found that “tall” people earn a substantially higher wage than their shorter counterparts, with each inch providing $789/year more in income. So, I guess it’s true… size matters ;)

Moral of the story kiddos. Don’t be ugly and don’t be short. Otherwise, it could cost you some major moolah. If you’re not attractive, don’t worry. There is always plastic surgery. I mean remember how good Michael looked after all his plastic surgery…

Have you ever witnessed some beauty biased in the work place? Can any level of “equal employment policies” prevent beauty from becoming a professional factor? Who are some exceptions to the “beauty” rule (think Bill Gates, Jack Black, Amy Winehouse)?

{ 18 comments }

1 Stephan

Interesting studies, i already believed it before but this only proves that looks definitely matter in teh business world. I always believed an interviewer is more likely to remember someone if they are good looking, its human nature and to be expected, but this doesnt make it fair. But i guess this is something that cant really be changed, kind of hard to prove that you were denied a job because of your looks.
Preferred Financial Services

2 Shauna

I work in marketing; it’s impossible to miss. I lost a lot of weight after entering this industry and there was definitely a difference in how others reacted to me. Even amongst handsome people, the more attractive, fit and polished you are, the more money you make, which allows you to become even more attractive fit and polished… it’s biology.

Seeing the women in my industry as they age was a minor but notable factor in planning a career shift for my thirties. I don’t want my income to rely on plastic surgery.

3 Mneiae

I can handle the attractive thing, but the height study is disheartening. I’m tiny relative to everybody else. However, most people seem to forget how short I am after the first time they meet me, so hopefully my height won’t detract from my career potential.

4 Dan Collins

I always wondered why I was making more money than my friends…. ha just kidding. I wish I was though.

5 FranticWoman

I’ve seen this study before and read it with interest. However, in my experience, I was not taken seriously as a “hot” woman and had to work extra hard. My abilities, skills, and brains were not of much interest. (maybe if I were a stripper this wouldn’t apply, but, in finance, it was a problem…)

Now that I am ugly I am surprised that people actually want to hear what I have to say. Everyone talks to me now, ’tis cool.

I haven’t job hunted in a long time though. I want to live in denial that this wage/hiring stuff isn’t true LaLaLadeeDa…

6 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

“Cute” also works pretty well.

I’m 30 pounds overweight but am a 5’2″ redhead that makes people laugh…that alone has made it where I’ve never had a job interview without getting hired or had to change my own flat tire. I’d feel bad but I’ve never used this “power” for evil (I truly enjoy making people happy, so it’s not insincere), so I’ll take advantage of what I was born with for as long as possible.

7 Mrs. Money

That’s crazy! It’s sad :(

8 Forest

Ha ha ha, well as funny as your post is I guess this is a serious issue. I wouldn’t say I was exactly attractive or sporting a particularly hot bod but i have done alright…. I wonder how much better I could have done if just worked out harder when back in the corporate world? :)

9 Monevator

I’m certain this is true, rightly or wrongly. We’re pre-programmed to like attractive people. It’s unrealistic to expect these things to be flicked on and off like a switch.

Is it the whole factor? Of course not, that’s why the differential is only measured in a few percentage.

I’d also imagine some short and less sexy people try extra hard to compensate (though not enough to move the averages, obviously).

Never give up, whatever hand you’re dealt!

10 Sandy L

I was recently sitting in a very large waiting room in an urban clinic and it was quite obvious that 99% of the patients were making below the federal poverty level (as everyone was whipping out their mass health cards). I don’t remember a single attractive person and it made me wonder if poor people are ugly or ugly people poor.

I know plenty of ugly rich people, but don’t know many attractive poor people (at least not adult ones). Most who were poor found a way out or hang around with rich people who can provide for them and are happy to do so.

I’m wondering if others have similar observations.

Interesting that I was just thinking I’d like to hear your take on this subject and here you go whipping out an article.

11 Jin6655321

Poor = Ugly… Not because poverty in itself is ugly, but because so much of what we consider beautiful are reflections of good health and a lot of poor people cannot afford good health.

If you grew up in poverty chances are your parents did not take you to the dentist to have your smile cleaned, straightened and whitened. I bet they didn’t take you to the dermatologist to have your skin cleared up so you don’t end up with acne scars. There’s a proven link between income level and weight. The less money you have, the more you rely on cheap fast food, the more weight you gain. Maybe they sit, stand, or walk slightly askew because they can’t afford to see a doctor about joint/back issues. And, of course, poor people do not have money for a professional hair stylist, manicurist, new clothes, etc.

12 eef

I was recently doing a lot of job interviews (unemployed = fail). I walked into two interviews and all they were was me saying “hi my name is erin, here’s my resume” and then the person telling me that they would call back people they liked. Based on what? They’d seen my resume before I got there, they had to just be going based on appearances since they didn’t even talk to me. Both were marketing jobs (one called me back, I turned them down ’cause I got a better offer).

AND, I used to work at a resort. It was SO OBVIOUS that they placed people based on appearance. I mean, all the girls at the front desk were pretty and had long dark hair. All the people in the “fancy” restaurant were very “fancy” looking (traditionally pretty/handsome). All the people in the casual restaurant were cute. When I first got there they placed me in the buffet. My co-workers told me “you’re cute, you’ll be a cashier within a month,” and I was.
I later transferred down to the spa, where everyone was fit and attractive. I had TRIED to work in the fancy restaurant and management told me I wasn’t “right” for that position. But prettier people with less experience were, evidently.
Anyone who didn’t look “right” for one of the outlets was placed in the back doing laundry or answering phones or cleaning toilets. I saw several people who gained weight get moved to back of house jobs, and a few people who lost weight get moved up to more prominent roles. It was really weird. New people would come in and not know where they were working yet, and people who had been there for a while could guess very accurately where the new people would end up.

THOSE STUDIES ARE TRUE! Well, not sure about the height, is that maybe just correlated to the fact that most men are taller than most women and men tend to make more than women?

13 StackingCash

Whoa! I live in Las Vegas. Traditionally, cocktail waitresses were the only attractive people in the casino. Then came the hot bartenders. Now it’s the hot dealers. They even got pole dancers in some casinos. This city is all about image. Good thing I’m in the union, they protect us ugly people from losing our jobs to the pretty people :)

14 ctreit

Being tall and good looking is not sufficient though. You still got to apply yourself.

Chris Rock had a funny comment in one of his comedy skids about living in Alpine, NJ, a very affluent town. He is one of a handful of blacks living there. These blacks have had outstanding careers. Chris Rock says that his neighbor is a white dentist. Chris Rock continued that a black dentist would have had to invent teeth to be able to live in Alpine.

So, the moral of that story is that it is just easier to get ahead if you are good looking, tall, white, etc. but it is not the only thing that matters.

15 simple in france

Sad, backward and true. And here in France, people will actually just go ahead and say that they’re looking for someone of a certain height (I’ve actually seen this!!) in a job offer. And you must include a photo with each resume. . .although that is starting to change. The discrimination is so much more blatant here. . .but it’s real in the US as well.

16 Larry

Don’t forget, however, that the opposite is also true: the dumb-blond stereotype that the pretty person is a brainless nitwit who has gotten by solely on his/her looks. Based on my experiences, there’s a fair amount of truth to that assumption.

And Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are not exactly pretty.

17 Ingrid@Morestylethancash

It is not just about the physical looks but how you present yourself. I always used this to my advantage when I was an antique dealer.

When I was buying I would show up in jeans, a clean t-shirt, minimal make up and my hair pulled back in a pony tail. When I was selling I would be in a dress, jewelry, high heels, hair and make up done.

Estee Lauder the millionaire cosmetic queen use to say that “There is no such thing as an ugly woman, just a lazy one.”

Of course buying her expensive products would help you become beautiful and once again we see how rich people can afford to be attractive while poor people can’t.

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