Hey, handsome, that’s a big pay packet you’ve got

The Sunday Times 10 March 2013

LOOKS can earn a handsome man 22% more than his plainer colleagues doing an identical job, according to new research.

The penalty for below-average looks, or outright ugliness, is even greater and can reduce a man’s earnings by 26%, compared with someone of average looks in the same job.

A study by senior economists found the effect exists across the social spectrum with even attractive male assembly line workers likely to be paid more than their average-looking colleagues.

The research project, entitled Unpacking the Beauty Premium, was conducted by Andrew Leigh, a former economics professor at the Australian National University, and Jeff Borland of the University of Melbourne. The largest exercise of its kind, it repeated a survey from 1984 to see if the beauty premium had changed.

Leigh said that although he believed good-looking women may also be paid more, the study did not demonstrate this, merely that attractive women were more likely to be in paid work than they were in 1984.

“Beauty can be a double-edged sword for women,” he said. “Some people still believe good looks and intelligence are incompatible in women so a good-looking woman can’t be that productive, but there’s no dumb-blonde syndrome affecting men’s pay.”

Leigh believes the results show people are “lookist” in their attitudes and he hopes the findings might help employers recognise and overcome their prejudice.

Ian Mitchell, 28, a 6ft 4in former male model with a first-class degree in history from Edinburgh, and now a product manager for a cosmetics company, agreed that good looks make a difference at work. “It gives you confidence, and I suspect people tend to warm to you more quickly,” he said.

However, Allison Page, 44, a partner in law firm DLA Piper, said: “It is certainly not the case in my industry that people get promoted more easily because of their appearance.”