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What studies show on the relationship between beauty and the labor market

Recent research indicates that life can be less harsh and more rewarding for the more attractive people.

Marike, a South African model from Cape Town, poses for a photo shoot for an advertising campaign in London.

“Appearance is a very big factor in my field,” she says.

He chats on the BBC’s Business Daily radio show in a London café to talk about his work, which is strongly linked to his image.

Lunch arrives. Eat scrambled eggs and avocado puree.

“You have to look like the photos in your portfolio. You have to take care of your image. If you’re not good about yourself and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle, your career is ruined,” she says.

Recent research indicates that life can be less harsh and more rewarding for the more attractive people.

According to labor market economist Daniel Hamermesh, these people earn on average $237,000 (R$1.2 million) more over their lifetime than equally skilled but less attractive people in the United States.

They are also more likely to be promoted at work, negotiate better loans, and attract more qualified and personable partners.

Free products and experiences

Recently, women have gained more benefits by posting photos on social networks.

“It’s amazing how nice people can be when they find you attractive.”

“I realized that I was hired for every job I applied to when I was a student, even if I didn’t have the necessary skills.”

“Also, I’m not charged for drinks or desserts in restaurants.”

All these statements were collected by Business Daily from several women.

And ironically, the same platforms used to expose and denounce the reality of this phenomenon are also largely responsible for its legitimization.

Marike sees Instagram as an important social network for this to keep happening.

Many influencers get free products in exchange for visibility, the famous

“Companies invite you to free experiences and, in exchange, you sell the brand’s products. You just need to be an influencer for these brands, showing them on your account. You can drink and eat for free,” says the model.

“Having beautiful girls enjoying the experience makes restaurants beautiful,” she adds.

But is it fair for someone to benefit only from their appearance or characteristics that go back to birth?

Marike argues that if you’re good looking and can keep fit, you should just have fun, especially to save money.

A career on Instagram

There are few better ways to identify the power of beauty than by observing an influencer, at least according to social media expert Hannah van de Peer.

“On Twitter, you don’t have to be visually appealing. What matters is your words, your political and cultural awareness. But you can have thousands of followers and reach and still need a full-time job to make a living,” says Van de Even.

“On Instagram, you can get paid and support a career by promoting products or documenting your daily life with just your beauty. Brands and organizations will want to work with you. Reality TV will reach out to invite you to join or host the show. You can make millions,” adds.


Like it or not, the preference for pretty faces affects many sectors of the economy and the labor market.

In fact, it goes beyond the boundaries of Hollywood, social networks, commercials or other professional fields that involve the attention of the public.

“Even in universities, which don’t depend on attractive people, looks matter. In economics, there are some recent studies showing that an attractive person earns more, gets better grades and gets better jobs,” says Hamermesh, a professor in economics from the University of Texas, USA.

The specialist has been studying the effects of beauty on the economy for decades.

Hamermesh, who calculated that attractive people earn $237,000 (R$1.2 million) more in their lifetime than others, based it on an average wage of $20 (R$105) per hour.

Applying his logic to the salaries of stock market managers and bankers, the difference is likely to be even greater.

And there is also a gender imbalance.

According to Hamermesh, handsome men earn more percentage points than attractive women, and unattractive men earn less than unattractive women on average.

His calculations are based on US data.

Although beauty and interest are subjective factors, influenced by other qualities such as intelligence, the expert argues that the effects of beauty in areas such as the job market do not depend on this and that, at first glance, people are pretty consistent in qualifying someone attractive or not.

Hamermesh explains that this pattern dates back 200 to 300 years and that it is a perception that continues to exist in some developing countries.

“Looking better means you are healthier. And if you are healthy in these societies, it means you are good at reproducing. This is not true in most western countries and industrialized societies today, but I, as a teacher, should win the the same if I have the same skills as another more attractive teacher… but physical appearance is something that still matters,” explains the academic.

And the weight?

In addition to beauty, weight discrimination is also a reality in the labor market.

This could especially be seen during the pandemic.

Many have struggled to shed the extra pounds gained by working from home during the quarantine.

Unconscious bias leads society to invest time and money in maintaining a weight accepted by beauty standards

Even the press even encouraged weight loss before returning to face-to-face work.

“Fat people are more likely to earn less than average weight employees. This is related to their perceived worth,” says Canadian author Emily Lauren Dick.

“Just look at how they’re portrayed on television and in movies. People who are considered ugly and fat are seen as inferior: less intelligent, less likeable. This can lead to unfair treatment, bullying and harassment,” she says.

An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet every year and spend $33 billion (R$174 billion) a year on products that promise to help them lose weight, according to Boston Medical Center, US.

“Three-year-olds have self-esteem issues. Society invests heavily in body ideals because meeting beauty standards guarantees benefits. We all want to be accepted and lead a happy life. Corporations have made money off our insecurities,” says Lauren dick.

unconscious bias

This reality contributes to an unconscious or implicit bias that favors more attractive people.

And this can be detrimental to the employee, impacting selection processes and promotions.

In a recent UK study by Sheffield Hallam University, employers were given identical resumes. First with pictures of fat people and then with pictures of thin people.

The portrayal of people with non-standard bodies in the media can help society overcome stereotypes and prejudices

Researchers have identified a clear selection bias in favor of thin people.

Such a scenario undermines diversity and inclusion in the labor market and raises questions about what companies can do to address fatphobia.

Lauren Dick suggests tweaking a few rules to ensure all body types are accepted.

These include conducting audio interviews only or introducing awareness training for employees.

More and more people are speaking out against this preference for attractive people, and you’re starting to notice a change.

Marike, the South African model, says she has to prove more and more that she is much more than a “pretty face”.

“Contractors are more interested in people or models who have a story and who do more than just walk the runway. Personality has become very important and I think it’s really cool,” she says.

The preference for beauty has affected many for generations, but through representation in media and advertisements it is possible to help dismantle this type of prejudice and create better opportunities for all.

*This report is based on an episode of the BBC Business Daily podcast. You can listen to it in English. Here.

Source: Terra

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