The study, conducted by economists Jeff Borland from Melbourne University and Andrew Leigh who is now a federal MP, is the first serious look at the relationship between male physical attractiveness and financial return.
Leigh and Borland found that the “plainless penalty” was more important than the “beauty premium” with men whose looks were rated as below-average by door-to-door interviewers earning some 26 per cent less than average. On the flip side, good looking men earned 22 per cent more than average.
The authors noted that while there is a similar effect with females, the salary differential is smaller and harder to measure.
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"I found something similar when I looked at the effect of politicians' appearance on their electability," Dr Leigh told Fairfax’s Executive Style. "Good looks helped male candidates more than they helped women. It could be that attractive women come up against the stereotype that they can't be both attractive and intelligent. There's no such thing as the dumb-blond syndrome for men."
The research was conducted with interviewers rating interviewees on a six-point scale from “very much more attractive than average” to “well below average”. The interviewers also analysed photos of other interviewees and most reached similar conclusions about who was handsome and who was below-average looking.
“It turns out beauty isn't in the eye of the beholder," Dr Leigh said. "There is a strong literature showing views about beauty are shared.''
The research found that men rated as having below-average looks had lower chances of being employed and when they were employed typically had lower wages. These men were also less likely to be married and had lower chances of being married to a woman with a high income.
What's your opinion - Is it fair that handsome men earn $30K per year more than below-average looking men?
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