‘Beauty Pays,’ according to noted economist who wrote the first book to measure how

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist:

Beauty is only skin deep, but it affects our lives across a large variety of economic dimensions, according to noted economist Daniel S. Hamermesh.

Hamermesh’s “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful,” published by Princeton University Press in 2011, is the first book to seriously measure the advantages of physical beauty.

On a scale of 1 to 5 — a subjective ranking of the “homely” to the “strikingly attractive,” to use the author’s preferred terms — those in the top third can expect to earn about $200,000 more over their lifetimes than those in the bottom seventh, according to Hamermesh, who will lecture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis this month.

As the Martin C. Spechler Economics Speaker Series lecturer, Hamermesh will present “Beauty Pays” at 7 p.m. Monday, April 20, in Room 450C of the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd.

'Beauty Pays'

‘Beauty Pays’

Hamermesh’s “Beauty Pays” “demonstrates how society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life,” said the Amazon review of the book.

Hamermesh “shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, work more productively and profitably, receive more substantial pay, obtain loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses. Hamermesh explains why this happens and what it means for the beautiful — and the not-so-beautiful — among us.”

What led Hamermesh — a professor of economics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Sue Killam Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Texas, Austin — to study how and how much beauty pays?

“It’s a great economic question,” Hamermesh said in a phone interview. It was his wife who suggested it was time he wrote a book based on the plethora of professional articles he has written on the topic. The book is a “popularization and synthesis of those articles,” the author said.

What makes a person beautiful? While symmetry of facial features plays a great role, a totally objective definition is somewhat illusive, according to Hamermesh. “It’s like porn: I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it,” he said.

'Beauty Pays' author Daniel Hamermesh

‘Beauty Pays’ author Daniel Hamermesh

Based on the evidence, Hamermesh said that in addition to being more likely to earn better pay, the attractive among us are also more likely to have more handsome and highly educated spouses. For example, attractive women may have husbands who earn 10 percent more than their more common-looking co-workers.

And the findings about how beauty pays seem to hold across racial and ethnic lines, although the gender correlations are a little more blurred.

People tend to react more strongly to a bad-looking woman than to a bad-looking man, Hamermesh said. That must be why more actors with pronounced wrinkles, gray hair and round stomachs apparently get more on-screen work than actresses with the same.

Hamermesh discusses the plight of the aesthetically challenged in the book chapter he titled “Legal Protection for the Ugly.”

“Beauty is very hard to change,” he said. On logical grounds, why shouldn’t ugly people have affirmative action rights?”

On the other hand, that’s a political issue that no one is willing to set aside economic resources to address, the economist admits.

The Martin C. Spechler lecture is sponsored by the Department of Economics in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. For more information on the lecture and to RSVP, contact econ@iupui.edu.

Visitor parking is available for a fee in the Vermont Street Garage.

A map and directions are available online.

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