Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features discussions on education, learning and teaching, and language with particular focus on English. The primary subjects to be taken up here are notable advocacies and contrary viewpoints in these disciplines and their allied fields. Our primary aim is to clarify matters and issues of importance to language and learning, provide intelligent and useful instruction, promote rational and critical thinking, and enhance the individual’s overall capacity for discernment.

How society favors the beautiful in practically all aspects of life

No matter how unfair and unpalatable the idea might be, society favors the beautiful in practically all aspects of life—in better employment opportunities, in more productive and profitable lines of work, in being able to have better looking and better educated spouses. This is the hardly surprising thesis of noted economist Daniel Hamermesh in his recently released book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful (Princeton University Press, 228 pages). But what has raised both the approving and disapproving eyebrows of critics is how Hamermesh sought to quantify the economic benefits of beauty into what he calls “pulchrinomics.”

Beauty Pays

Hamermesh gives this justification for why pulchrinomics need to be taken seriously: “Take as given the notion that the scarcity of beauty arises from genetic differences in people’s looks, so that by some socially determined criteria some people are viewed as better looking than others… Would beauty still be scarce if we were all genetically identical? Of course, this eventuality is not about to occur, but even under this unrealistic scenario it would still make sense to talk about an economics of beauty. So long as people desire to distinguish themselves from others, some of these hypothetical clones will spend more on their appearance than others in order to stand out from the crowd.”

To show how much better off are the better looking, Hamermesh presents the results of his research on the advantages enjoyed by the beautiful and the disadvantages suffered by those who are perceived as ugly. The research shows that in the United States in particular, good-looking workers on average earn a total of $230,000 more than those with below-average looks, while good-looking professors get higher ratings from their students, and good-looking politicians win out over ugly ones. Hamermesh says that this very substantial payoff for looking good is what motivates many people to spend countless hours and billions of dollars on personal grooming, cosmetics, and even plastic surgery.

As to what the “looks-challenged” can do to overcome their disadvantage, Hamermesh has this advice: “Emphasize those things that you are good at—your intelligence, strength, nice personality. Looks are only one of many factors that affect how much one earns, how well one does in dating/marriage, how happy one is.”

Read an excerpt from Daniel Hamermesh’s Beauty Pays in now!

Read an interview of Daniel Hamermesh about Beauty Pays in The Huffington Post now!

Read Daniel Hamermesh’s “Ugly? You May Have a Case” in The New York Times now!

Read Susan Adams’ “Does Beauty Really Pay?” in Forbes Magazine now!

Read Sue Shellenbarger’s interview of Daniel Hamermesh in “On the Job, Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep” in the Wall Street Journal now!

Read Rachel Shteir’s “Taking Beauty’s Measure” in The Chronicle of Higher Education now!

Daniel S. Hamermesh is the Sue Killam Professor in the Foundations of Economics at the University of Texas, Austin, and professor of labor economics at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He earned his AB from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Yale University. He had taught at Princeton University and at Michigan State University as well as held visiting professorships at universities in the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. Prior to Beauty Pays, he had authored Labor Demand, The Economics of Work and Pay, and a wide array of articles in labor economics in the leading general and specialized economics journals.

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