Blondes Have More Fun But Less Funds | BTalk
(Episode 425; 6 minutes 13) Is there a relationship between your hair colour and how much you earn? Dr Geni Dechter, an economics lecturer at the Australian School of Business, studied the effect of physical appearance on earnings while she was worked at Rochester University in the United States.
Geni, who is a brunette, found that hair colour could impact wages by as much as 9 percent. It seems the notion of the dumb blonde was prevalent in the US at the time of the study. It's covered in her recent paper "Physical Appearance and Earnings: the role of hair colour".
The study was based on research in the US. I wonder if the same would apply in Australia today. Tell us your experiences in the Talkback section at the end of this post.
You might also find this paper interesting from Daniel Hamermesh at the University of Texas: "Dress for success ?€" does primping pay?"
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In the world of work perhaps looks do matter, particularly the colour of your hair. Blondes, and we're only talking about women here, might actually be at a disadvantage. To talk about this I'm joined by Geni Dechter from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales. Now Geni, this sounds like one of these things that might actually, you know, it sounds like it might be a myth. That blondes are worse off. But you're saying this is the case, at least right at the very beginning of your career anyway.
Geni Dechter: One thing I want to clarify before we start, is that I did this research using US data.
Dechter: From '80s to '90s. So I hope maybe I would not find this result if I did this research using the current data. Or if I used Australian data. So the results are true for '80s and '90s for the United States.
Dobbie: Right. Okay. So in the '80s and '90s in the US there was a belief that looks did influence your ability.
Dechter: But yes. So there's nothing else to believe besides that back then employers were influenced by some type of beliefs about the attributes of lighter-coloured-hair women. Yes.
Dobbie: Right. And it was just women. So the thing, if you're a blond man you weren't having the same ...
Dechter: Yes. I did same type of analysis for men as well. I didn't find any correlation between their hair colour and their labour market outcome.
Dechter: So just women. So something going with the women and their physical appearance and how it's approached by employers or by the labour market.
Dobbie: Right. And so, I mean it seems to point, doesn't it, to a belief which is, which is astonishing that people are saying well, you know, blondes aren't as smart as brunettes basically.
Dechter: So actually with the data I used I was able to test for some of these statements. So the data provided me with some test of cognitive ability or education or labour market experience. Or attitudes towards labour market or life in general. So I do not see any difference at all between blondes and brunettes in this sense.
Dobbie: Right. Okay. So it's all to do with attitude. What about people who are, for example, ugly? Just plain ugly. Or they're fat? They, you know, stacked on a lot of weight. Are they less likely to get paid well?
Dechter: So I didn't do the analysis myself. But there is literature on that about physical appearance in general. Like how beautiful you are and your earnings. Or how much your weigh and your earnings. So researchers do find that overweight or obese people earn less, so some part of it they do explain by some type of discrimination going on.
Dobbie: Right. Okay. And what about the, the situation in the United States where we were looking at the relationship with hair colour? Does that change according to the industry? Because I imagine some industries might. For example, advertising, model agencies obviously being blond should be a good thing.
Dechter: Yes. So for example there's one research paper by Daniel Hammermesh. And they looked at the lawyers and they compared better-looking lawyers to worse looking lawyers. And they saw that over time the better-looking lawyers are working more in the private sector. While the worse-looking lawyers work in the government sector, so. Which meant that maybe the clients prefer better-looking ones. Or it also could be in that the better-looking ones have more confidence or they perform better. So somehow there's this segregation then of the lawyers, the better-looking ones are in the private sector. Somehow they end up there. Yes.
Dobbie: Right. And consequently getting a lot more money, if we're talking about lawyers. But I wonder.
Dechter: Yes, exactly. Yes.
Dobbie: I wonder if they got better results. I guess that as you said, confidence is going to be a big part of that, isn't it?
Dechter: Yes, it could be. But yes, you cannot measure something that's speculation again. Yes. But that's what they. The fact is that they, do you see the segregation.
Dobbie: Well, there is some segregation. Yes, actually I know. I suspect, you know, that things might have changed now. But maybe things don't change as quickly as we might like them to. So the message is still the same, isn't it? If you're blonde, maybe you need at your hair colour.
Dechter: Yes. I also. I'm using a natural hair colour, so maybe you could colour your hair.
Dobbie: Which a lot of people do, of course.
Dobbie: All right. I appreciate.
Dechter: For example, if you were a brunette you could be better in the job market.
Dobbie: That's right. Absolutely. Appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
Dechter: Yes. Thank you.
Dobbie: There we are. That's Geni Dechter from the Australian School of Business talking about blondes getting paid less. At least early on in their career. And there's some interesting statistics on research from Daniel Hammermesh from the University of Texas. Which it looks to me, looking at this table, that if you're a bloke in Australia or the UK, and you're below average looks, then you're going to be penalised in terms of your hourly earnings for blokes. But not for women. Which is bad news, isn't it, for men in the United Kingdom because they're all below average looks over there. I'm only kidding of course. I was one myself once. A man and from the UK. So are you influenced by looks when you're employing someone? Does it still happen? And if so, what are the reasons for this? Leave a comment in the blog that goes with this podcast.
Popular on MoneyWatch
- Reverse cell phone lookup service is free and simple
- How to stop the mediocrity pandemic
- Apple's Cook says company doesn't use "tax gimmicks"
- Top five 529 college plans
- LinkedIn: 3 tips for building a better profile
- Top 10 professional life coaching myths
- How to organize your job hunt
- What homeowners should do before - and after - a tornado