Beauty and the Labor Market

Topics: Physical attractiveness, Physical Appearance, Employment Pages: 5 (1513 words) Published: September 27, 2008
The article “Beauty and the Labor Market” by Daniel S. Hamermesh and Jeff E. Biddle examines the economics of discrimination in the labour market based on looks and the relationship that exists between beauty and labour market earnings. Analyzing, results from several studies, data from various empirical research and surveys; the article identifies the source of earnings differentials related to looks in six distinct and detailed sections.

The first section addresses the question of whether it is possible to use measures of beauty to analyze the role of looks in the labour market. Since, it would be futile to examine the effect of beauty on employment if there is no mutual agreement on what defines beauty. Using data from various studies and a Canadian survey this section concludes that world standards of beauty are mutually agreed upon and stable over one’s working life. Section two outlines three possible reasons for earning differentials related to looks in the labour market: pure employer discrimination originating from employers distaste for unattractive workers, customer/productivity discrimination resulting from earning differentials only in occupations where attractiveness is productive, and occupational crowding that is sorting into particular occupations associated with physical appearance. Section three describes the three microeconomic data, two American and one Canadian survey, used to calculate hourly earnings and to analyze the role of looks on workers earning while holding constant various demographic and labor-market characteristics. All the three surveys contain interviewers' ratings of the respondents' physical appearance on a five-point scale. Section four tests the presence of earning differential based on looks initially by presenting estimates of standard earnings equations and then synthesizing the findings to conclude that better-looking people receive higher wages, while bad-looking people earn less than average looking people. Section five examines gender differences in the effects of beauty and concludes that these effects are slightly larger for men than women; however unattractive women are less likely to participate in the labour force and are more likely to be married to men with low human capital. Lastly, section six tests the three sources of wage differences by looks, discussed previously in section two, and concludes that there are earnings premia and penalties independent of occupation and that pure employer discrimination alone does not clarifies the role of beauty in the labour market; beauty may be productive in some occupations possibly as a result of consumer preferences. In conclusion, there is a positive correlation between beauty and wage-earnings. The impacts of looks are higher for men than women; although, these gender differences are not significantly large. Also, there is some evidence that there is occupational sorting based on looks into occupations where looks are productive. Strengths:

The research provided by the article is quite detailed and transparent. Along with the aids of six distinct sections, and a systematic breakdown on the basis of look-based employer discrimination the article concludes to the results between income attainments of labor force participants and their physical appearance. To isolate the effect of beauty and earning and to account for omitted-variable bias and other errors, the authors hold constant various demographic and labor-market characteristics and add various dummy variables and worker related vector of parameters to the estimates. The data is then further digressed on the basis of gender, and occupations. This digression is critical to the overall result since it demonstrates some areas in which the results could contradict the hypothesis presented. Furthermore, the article provides detailed insights on the premia and penalties associated with looks. To illustrate these insights Hamermesh and Biddle use three economic...
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