Good looks lead to a good paycheck, study finds

When it comes to your salary, your appearance can make a big difference.

A new study has found that good looks can affect how much people earn. Women with above-average looks, for example, get about 8 percent more in pay, while good-looking men will make about 4 percent more, sociologists Rachel Gordon at the University of Illinois and Robert Crosnoe at the University of Texas concluded.

And in other news, the sun rose today, right? But what's perhaps more interesting is how below-average looks can hurt a worker's salary, the researchers found. For men, the pay difference was more dramatic if their looks were considered below average. In that case, they lose out on about 13 percent of their potential pay. Women with below-average looks, by contrast, only see a 4 percent drop in pay.

Kinda makes you feel like you're back in high school again. In fact, Gordon and Crosnoe did go back to high school -- you know, that place where your fragile self-esteem was bludgeoned daily by the cool kids -- and found that this discrimination starts in the teen years.

Even back then, better-looking teens are rated by others as smarter and having more personality and a higher chance of success. In many ways, that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by setting the stage for success, according to the study.

That discrimination doesn't let up into adulthood, either. The researchers tried one experiment where they showed young men a photo of either an attractive or unattractive woman before putting them on the phone with her. The men often expected the attractive woman to be funny and sociable, and then they fulfilled their own expectations by eliciting that behavior in the phone call.

But as your mom may have told you at some point, looks aren't everything. The researchers did find some drawbacks to being attractive. Teens who were considered good-looking were more likely to drink heavily and have sexual partners, the report says.

And later in life, attractive women have been discriminated against in some male-dominated occupations. One Citibank employee said in 2010 she was fired from her job because her male co-workers found her too attractive.

  • Kim Peterson

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