On the so-called “beauty premium”

Very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents. Multiple regression analyses showed that there was very weak evidence for the beauty premium, and it disappeared completely once individual differences, such as health, intelligence, and Big Five personality factors, were statistically controlled.

…Past findings of beauty premium and ugliness penalty may possibly be due to the fact that: 1) “very unattractive” and “unattractive” categories are usually collapsed into “below average” category; and 2) health, intelligence (as opposed to education) and Big Five personality factors are not controlled. It appears that more beautiful workers earn more, not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better (more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic) personality.

That is from Satoshi Kanazawa and Mary C. Still, probably not the last word on this topic but still an advance in knowledge.  Via Kevin Lewis.

Comments

The Oprah Winfrey Effect!

Bonus trivia: if you model, so I'm told (and I once dinner dated an LA model) you have to have 'unusual' features. Too perfect means you'll be rejected.

Most models are unattractive, so it seems the premium also exists in situations where the standards are artificial.

Perhaps another example/parable is this Sherlock Holmes story?

Unattractive people try harder? Because they have to? Because not attractive?

Kanazawa has poor track record of making unsupported claims so I'd want to take a closer look at his data and method, but then again maybe he learned from experience and has done better this time.

It could be the other way, that is if you are very talented you get away with not keeping your appearance up.

This is actually true in my office - the ugliest guy is easily the most competent. And he's an awesome guy to work with too. Nice personality, friendly, easy going.

i.e. if he were better looking, he'd get a better and higher paying job elsewhere?

I believe he has had better paying higher status jobs in the past. He's older and nearing retirement. He was telling me the other day about living in New York where KPMG had put him up in a corporate suite in Manhatten for a while.

Or just Berkson's paradox and range restriction. Same way Google finds that GPA/IQ doesn't correlate with job success - in the very few people that they eventually hire.

Speaking of other statistical fallacies, 'controlling for intermediate variables' and 'controlling for confounding is harder than you think' come to mind for OP...

> That is from Satoshi Kanazawa ... but still an advance in knowledge

Rev. Bayes?! Paging Thomas Bayes! Emergency in the M.R. ward, get here stat!

It appears that more beautiful workers earn more, not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better (more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic) personality.

Well that explains why so many people respond poorly to my posts. It must be hell living with the more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic.

Yeah, I suspect this is nonsense. If beautiful people earn more it is a sign of market failure.

>Yeah, I suspect this is nonsense. If beautiful people earn more it is a sign of market failure.

Nah, it just means their existence is more valuable than that of an unattractive counterpart.

> Very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents.

This sounds dangerously close to p-hacking. Was this specific hypothesis pre-registered? If not, is the paper doing some sort of multiple hypothesis test, instead of just taking the t-stat between these two categories?

Think about it this way. I can take some sort of ordinal variable (attractiveness, income, height, whatever), and just keep breaking it down into more and more granular categories. If I don't fine a statistical significant difference between above and below median, then I'll drop to quintiles. If none of the quintile neighbors are different with statistical significance, then drop to deciles. Repeat until you hit gold. At some point random noise will give me a significant t-stat.

It's fashionable to cry "p-hacking" at the moment, but since attractiveness is the primary variable being studied here, breaking if down into buckets seems fine. I'd be concerned if he veered into unattractive blonds vs unattractive brunettes vs unattractive red heads territory.

Satoshi Kanazawa emerges again from the undergrowth again. The man is a benchmark for bad statistical methodology.
See Andrew Gelman's blog, passim.

Just remember the most attractive people from high school or college. Between 15-20 years old, most (healthy) people is beautiful. After 30, the beautiful with lower IQ have been beaten by alcohol, drugs, shitty marriages, obesity, etc. If you meet anyone attractive 35+ years old, I'd bet it's a quite intelligent individual.

Not to mention conscientious (healthy eating, always using sunscreen) and less neurotic (less stress in the same situation).

Also, let's not forget that half the time, this "beauty" is being applied to men.

"It appears that more beautiful workers earn more, not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better (more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic) personality."

In other news, for some reason the people I find attractive seem to me better in every way than the people I find ugly. Probably just a coincidence though.

Exactly. "After controlling for every individual factor that makes people attractive, we find no premium associated with the mere word 'attractive.'"

Let's say the study's broadly correct - better looking people earn more because they're more conscientious, less nurotic, more extrovert*, more healthy and more intelligent. You still need to ask to what extent are these factors a result of being better looking. If you're better looking it might be that other people tend to be nicer to you and generally react to you in a more positive way. This could have pretty obvious direct affects on personality and health; if people are nie to you, you tend to be happier and healthier. I wonder if it can affect IQ as well - you tend to be able to think more clearly when happy and healthy.

How might the very unattractive people earning more fit into the above? Perhaps at some point yoou kind of cease to care or compare yourself to others in terms of attractiveness and/or at some stage you're more likely
to really focus on work.

Hey that is good news. We are better than we thought we were.

Kind of a reiteration of the point that confidence is attractive, and so is healthiness.
Confidence may also be related to higher competence. And healthiness is going to improve job performance for obvious reasons. So a healthy confident person is likely to be more attractive both physically and as a potential employee.

Exactly - why would anyone control for these factors, except as a means of showing that the beauty premium is a form of statistical, rather than taste-based, discrimination?

What would be the reaction to a similar study that said race X makes more not because of race, but because race X correlation with better health, higher IQ even after controlling for education, more conscientious, etc.

Are we still trusting the, "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters" guy? Seems unwise...

It may help to distinguish "ugly" from "fat and ugly" (and all fats are ugly). I think non-fats may do better because they're perceived (correctly) as being less lazy, healthier, and less likely to smell or be out sick or have personal hygiene problems. And even fats hate other fats.

I remember a marketing campaign for a gym that said something like this: "Are you fat and ugly? Come to the gym and be just ugly".

Behind the black humor there's a bit of truth on the perception of "non-fats".....slender?.

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