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Attractive People Profit From Their Beauty

Publication Date: 
December 06, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mark Roth

Do beautiful people receive higher compensation? It's a topic Stanford Professor of Law, Deborah Rhode, recently discussed with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the article below:

Two hundred-fifty thousand dollars.

That's how much extra a good-looking American male will earn during his lifetime than his less attractive colleagues, University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh says.

It's not an overwhelming advantage, given how long most careers are, he says, but it does have weight, and is equivalent to about 1 1/2 additional years of schooling.


One who thinks that people should not be penalized for their appearance is Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, who this year wrote a book on the issue, "The Beauty Bias."


Stanford's Dr. Rhode acknowledges that appearance is not the biggest women's rights issue, but she still thinks it is important to address, partly because it is underrecognized.

In analyzing the few anti-bias laws on appearance that exist in America, she noted that few complaints are ever adjudicated. The greatest value of such laws, though, may not be in achieving individual remedies, but in shining a spotlight on unfair practices based on looks, she said.

One case she cited was that of Jennifer Portnick, a 240-pound exercise instructor who was denied a franchise by Jazzercise, a fitness chain. She sued under San Francisco's anti-bias law, and the publicity caused the company to change its policy, partly because "the groundswell of public support made it quite clear that for a lot of women, having an instructor who looked just like them was a good thing," she said.

She also would like to see better regulation of fashion, cosmetic, diet and other beauty products, and possible boycotts of companies that make unsupportable claims.

While some may believe that everyone takes these companies' ads with a grain of salt, "in fact surveys have shown the vast majority of people think these companies couldn't make these claims unless there was a basis in fact," even though that is not the case.

Dr. Rhode knows good-looking people have an edge, but said "I'm more concerned about the disadvantages than the advantages. People are going to get a beauty bump because we're kind of hard-wired to like more attractive people, or to prefer taller men, for instance, but I think what you can do is attack some of the more punitive measures based on standards that have no relation to job performance."