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Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful [Kindle Edition]

Daniel S. Hamermesh
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Most of us know there is a payoff to looking good, and in the quest for beauty we spend countless hours and billions of dollars on personal grooming, cosmetics, and plastic surgery. But how much better off are the better looking? Based on the evidence, quite a lot. The first book to seriously measure the advantages of beauty, Beauty Pays demonstrates how society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life. Noted economist Daniel Hamermesh shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, work more productively and profitably, receive more substantial pay, obtain loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses. Hamermesh explains why this happens and what it means for the beautiful--and the not-so-beautiful--among us.

Exploring whether a universal standard of beauty exists, Hamermesh illustrates how attractive workers make more money, how these amounts differ by gender, and how looks are valued differently based on profession. He considers whether extra pay for good-looking people represents discrimination, and, if so, who is discriminating. Hamermesh investigates the commodification of beauty in dating and how this influences the search for intelligent or high-earning mates, and even examines whether government programs should aid the ugly. He also discusses whether the economic benefits of beauty will persist into the foreseeable future and what the "looks-challenged" can do to overcome their disadvantage.

Reflecting on a sensitive issue that touches everyone, Beauty Pays proves that beauty's rewards are anything but superficial.

Editorial Reviews


"Since the mid-nineties, Daniel Hamermesh . . . has done a series of studies on the role that appearance plays in the workplace, and his conclusion is captured by the title of his recent book, Beauty Pays. In the U.S., he finds, better-looking men earn four per cent more than average-looking men of similar education and experience, and uglier men earn thirteen per cent less. . . . Hamermesh finds that pulchritude is valuable in nearly all professions, not just those where good looks may seem to be an obvious asset. . . ."--Jim Surowiecki, New Yorker

"This chatty, economist's-eye-view of beauty in the marketplace provides solid statistical evidence that beauty does pay."--Publishers Weekly

"An extensive, dizzying compilation of economic data explaining 'why attractive people are more successful.' A 40-year veteran in the field of economics, Hamermesh examines the correlation between beauty and economics. . . . Fascinating."--Kirkus Reviews

"[A] no-warts-and-all exposé of how attractive people earn more, marry better and enjoy a wealth of positive discrimination."--Anjana Ahuja, Prospect

"Daniel Hamermesh . . . has long written about 'pulchronomics.' In Beauty Pays he reckons that, over a lifetime and assuming today's mean wages, a handsome working in America might on average make $230,000 more than a very plain one. There is evidence that attractive workers bring in more business, so it often makes sense for firms to hire them. Whether rewarding them accordingly--and paying their less attractive peers more stingily--is good for society is another matter."--Economist

"If you live in the west and have lately looked at any magazine, watched any television, seen any movie, common sense would dictate that those who are better looking accrue the benefits of such a genetic roll of the dice. But what exactly those benefits are and if they are measurable is the point of Beauty Pays. . . . [T]his book . . . will prove more than just eye candy."--New York Journal of Books

"University of Texas labor economist Daniel Hamermesh has devoted a share of his career to the study of physical beauty and how it affects employment and earning potential. In his new book, Beauty Pays, he offers up all sorts of data he's collected over years of work. His broad point, that attractive people enjoy advantages in hiring and earning, will surprise no one. But some of the details packed inside this thoughtful and in some respects quirky and confounding book, are illuminating."--Susan Adams, Forbes

"Hamermesh's analysis of empirical studies in his book Beauty Pays appears to suggest that being attractive does, indeed, bring measurable materials benefits. . . . Hamermesh's research appears to have clear implications for policy."--Sunday Times

"Economist Daniel Hamermesh argues that ugliness is no different from race or a disability, and suggests unattractive people deserve legal protection."--Luke Salkeld, Daily Mail

"Beauty Pays is intriguing and easy to read."--World Magazine

"In his book, Hamermesh concludes that better-looking employees are more productive, leading to higher sales and potentially higher profit. [Beauty Pays] also shows how society generates premium pay for beauty and penalties for ugliness. Hamermesh says beautiful people earn $230,000 more in a lifetime than workers with below-average looks."--Sheryl Jean, Dallas Morning News

"Professor Daniel Hamermesh . . . has investigated the financial benefits of beauty and found that looks have a bigger impact on our lifetime earning power than education. In his book, Beauty Pays, Professor Hamermesh says beautiful people are more likely to get jobs, raises and promotions, and suggests that, over a lifetime, the best-looking workers will earn about 10-15 percent more per year than the ugliest."--Australian Women's Weekly

"Looks matter. . . . Labor markets as well as marriage markets, according to Daniel Hamermesh, offer premiums for good looks and penalties for ugliness. In Beauty Pays, Hamermesh assesses the role of appearance in American society, explores the options available to 'looks-challenged' people, and demonstrates that, although it's in its infancy, and is easy to mock, 'pulchronomics' (the economics of beauty) is a serious and significant subject."--Barron's

"Beauty Pays is a pleasant and interesting read, but along the way it will challenge many of your preconceptions and leave you wondering why we as a society do not do more to protect those with less desirable looks."--Times Higher Education

"For the last 20 years, Texas economist Hamermesh has been intrigued by, and has contributed significant research on, what one may term 'The Economics of Beauty'. This short, provocative, engaging volume takes its audience through the author's previous work and contemporary data, analyses, and impact of being considered good-looking by others on one's labor-market outcomes (employment and compensation); in the social world of friends and family; and even the extent to which one's happiness is affected by the presence (or absence) of looks. . . . Whether at the beach, on an airplane, or in the seminar room, Beauty Pays pays handsome dividends for intelligent lay readers, scholars, and public policy decision makers."--Choice

"The book is absorbing and disturbing, for the thought upper most in the mind is 'Am I beautiful (enough).'"--Vaidehi Nathan, Organiser

"The real value of this book lies not so much in its synthesis of existing results, but rather in the fact that it collects such results in a single volume. Observing side-by-side the various privileges bestowed upon the beautiful paints a picture that is more than the sum of its parts. Even though some specific results in the book may be driven by omitted variables, others are cleanly identified, and the overall set of studies builds a compelling case for the view that 'beauty pays'--being beautiful is valuable whether you are looking for a job, a loan, or a spouse."--Emir Kamenica, Journal of Economic Literature

"Beauty Pays, fascinating read, starts with the important data collection issues and questions. . . . Written by a prominent labor economist, shows the reader why beauty can rightly be under the purview or economists."--Jennifer Tennant, Eastern Economic Journal

"Reflecting on a sensitive issue that touches everyone, Beauty Pays proves that beauty's rewards are anything but superficial."--World Book Industry

From the Inside Flap

"If there was ever any doubt that Dan Hamermesh is the dean of beauty--of explaining beauty, at least--this book should put that to rest. He writes so lucidly and charmingly about such a compelling subject that you will never again look at a beautiful face (or an ugly one) without thinking of the many economic consequences. Bravo!"--Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

"Beauty is all around us. And it has value. Hamermesh, the founder of the economics of beauty, crunches the numbers and shows us what we've all suspected: the world looks different--and better--when you are beautiful. This book addresses the economics of beauty, but more importantly, it reveals the beauty of economics."--Justin Wolfers, University of Pennsylvania and Brookings Institution

"Beauty Pays is provocative and informative."--Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics

"Beauty Pays provides the first serious analysis of a significant aspect of human behavior: how beauty affects economic transactions and outcomes. This important book will receive a great deal of attention."--Naci Mocan, Louisiana State University

Product Details

  • File Size: 833 KB
  • Print Length: 229 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B005IAWT10
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 2, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,161 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho hum June 16, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book partly out of interest and partly because it related to a paper I was writing for grad school. It was reasonably interesting - scholarly rather than popular - but nothing to be bowled over by. Probably best for students researching a related topic rather than the casual reader.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Pays Is an Overall Disappointment October 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Daniel Hamermesh concentrates his attention on the economics of one's beauty, especially the impact of looks on earnings. This tour of horizon is ultimately unsatisfactory due to the weaknesses of the data set used, especially in Parts I and II of the book under review. This observation is counterintuitive due to the abundance of research that Mr. Hamermesh mentions in his notes. The data used is often either too old and/or limited to assess the exact extent of the undeniable effects of beauty on economics. For example, the author relies on data from the 1970s to calculate the percentage impacts of looks on earnings in the U.S. (pp. 45; 49). Other examples include the impact of better-looking CEOs (pp. 97; 99) or the extremely sparse case law in the jurisdictions that ban discrimination based on looks (p. 156). To his credit, Mr. Hamermesh acknowledges the limitations of these studies. Furthermore, some topics addressed in the book under review have not been the subject of any systematic study. Think for example about the impact of beauty during a recession or the impact of employees' beauty in boosting sales for a profit-making organization (pp. 50; 90). In summary, the evidence provided is too often piecemeal to accurately estimate the undeniable impact of beauty on economics.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Pays April 18, 2014
By Champ
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Beauty Pays is an extraordinary book that tells the Ugly truth about looks. Better looks equal an easier time in the world no matter where you go. People generally like to be around beautiful people, which may be a reason why some with good looks have the nastiest attitudes. I do not think the world should cater to self identified beauty whether true or false. From an economic standpoint beauty and attractiveness are well explained and reiterated several times over. It is another form of discrimination, but it just doesn't have enough political muscle behind it to stand. Nice writing Mr. Hamermesh!!
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22 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pulchronomics October 10, 2011
I have to tell two anecdotes when it comes to my view of this book. First, there's a Wendy's manager down the street from my job and he's drop-dead gorgeous. He has that Shemar Moore/Drake type of look. On the one hand, I think I make more money than him, even though I can't hold a candle to him in the looks department. However, maybe his looks is what got him appointed manager over other Wendy's workers. So that's the thing: although the author says the beautiful get points that the ugly don't, it's not always dispositive. Education, family connections, age, and many other things privilege people; it's just that beauty is also one of those factors.

There was a guy who came to the office who looked like Jude Law. He had a cute, exotic Scottish accent too. It didn't matter how trivial any concern he had; I was always delighted whenever he came by. The author says beauty is scarce and people are willing to give others widgets in order to be in their beautiful presence. Then again, there was the person with a big, nasty, lazy eye who often came to the office. The eye looked just like the commercial character Digger the Dermatophile (sp?). It would bother me terribly when this person visited. I never understood why they couldn't just call. The author stresses that there's an ugly penalty that works hand in hand with beauty privilege.

The author never mentions Milton Friedman, but I'm sure he comes from that University of Chicago view of economics that says economic principles can explain everything. I thought this was readable, but less sophisticated readers may struggle a bit. The author is trying to write for the masses, even though his curriculum vitae is surely filled with high-falutin' writing. He peals the onion in looking at this matter.
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