Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful

Daniel S. Hamermesh.. Princeton Univ., $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-691-14046-9
This chatty, economist's-eye-view of beauty in the marketplace provides solid statistical evidence that beauty does pay. Hamermesh, the author of a previous book comparing working hours in the U.S. and Germany, does not attempt an anthropological or psychological study of beauty across cultures or attempt to answer the age-old question of what is beautiful. Instead, he sets himself the useful task of measuring the economic benefits of beauty through a 1–5 rating system (he rates himself a 3 and his wife a 5) by examining the spate of studies examining the relationship between attractiveness and income. Unsurprisingly, reported 4s and 5s do make more money than the 2s or 3s (3 is considered average-looking). But the author is more interested in the nearly invisible implications of this study, and he is an expert at teasing out explanations for statistical differences. For instance, studies show that women who spend more money on clothing do very little to improve their perceived beauty: "the average woman's spending only raised her looks from 3.31 to 3.36." He also points out that the difference in earnings among groups is not large, only about 3%–4% less for those less well favored. The outlier is homely looking men, who earn an average of 22% less than their action-figure counterparts, versus only a 2% difference for homely women. While these details are interesting in themselves, the book as a whole does not succeed in convincing the reader they are learning anything new or exciting. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-691-15817-4
Open Ebook - 232 pages - 978-1-4008-3944-5
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