Beauty pays dividends, not just in the bedroom, but also in the boardroom, according to a 20-year study conducted by a University of Texas economics professor.
In his book, Beauty Pays, Professor Daniel S. Hamermesh says beautiful people are happier and earn more than their less-attractive counterparts.
“Personal beauty raises happiness,” said Hamermesh, who has researched the impact of attractiveness for two decades. “The majority of beauty’s effect on happiness works through its impact on economic outcomes.”
Hamermesh estimates the “beauty premium” at about $230,000 over a lifetime. In other words, a beautiful man or woman makes roughly $230,000 more during his/her career than their plain-looking counterparts (based on an average salary of $20 per hour in 2010).
Beautiful women earn 4% more than their plain colleagues, while handsome men earn 3% more, Hamermesh wrote in Beauty Pays.
Attractive people also tend to marry other attractive people, therefore conferring their advantageous genes on to the next generation, said Nancy Etcoff, author of Survival of the Prettiest.
However, Hamermesh said his findings are based on generalities and not specific examples. For instance, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is far wealthier than actor Robert Pattinson, but that doesn’t mean the beauty premium doesn’t exist.
“We don’t talk about individuals,” explains Hamermesh. “We talk about the average good-looking person and the average bad-looking person. There are always outliers.”
So does this mean people should rush out to get plastic surgery, buy expensive clothes and makeup in a bid to look better?
Hamermesh says no. Apparently, natural good looks trumps artificial attractiveness.
“I know all the cosmetics folks and clothes folks say they can make you prettier, but the evidence for it just isn’t there,” said Hamermesh. “It doesn’t help much.
“Your beauty is determined to a tremendous extent by the shape of your face, by its symmetry and how everything hangs together.”
In other words, Hamermesh says people who obsess over their looks are generally unhappy.