Good News: People Don’t Get Paid More Because They Are Prettier

This stack of money won't necessarily be yours just because you're pretty
The accepted wisdom that pretty people get paid more has been upended. (Photo: Getty Images)

Finally, some good news in the work world: You don’t have to look like a supermodel to make more money, says a new study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

In the last few years, many studies and surveys, including one published last May, have found that “individuals who are above average in physical attractiveness earn more money, and those who are below average in physical attractiveness earn less money, than average-looking individuals” in the United States and Canada and in the United Kingdom. Researchers often call this the “beauty premium.”

The new study put that theory to the test by measuring the physical attractiveness and income of 20,745 respondents on a five-point scale at four different points in life over 13 years, between the ages of 16 and 29. The study took into account health, intelligence, and personality, which not many studies have done. And it found results that contradicted previous studies.

While it appears that more beautiful workers earn more, very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents (study authors called this a potential “ugliness premium”). The findings show that the opposite ends of the beauty spectrum — very unattractive and very attractive — fared best in the salary department.

So, it can’t be beauty that pays off. The study authors found that good-looking people make more not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier and more intelligent and have better (more conscientious and extroverted, and less neurotic) personalities.

And the same can be said for the “very unattractive” people — they weren’t getting pity pay, but were being rewarded for health, intelligence, and personality.

So, instead of spending all that extra time doing your makeup before work, take better care of yourself internally, study up, and show off your inner beauty — at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

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