Study shows attractive people earn more

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(Left to Right) Santiago Casella and assistant director of Toppel Veronica Soto. Lindsay Brown//News Editor

Being more beautiful than your resumé may just get you more money.

In a study that will be published later this spring, a team of researchers from the University of Miami’s Health Economics Research Group (HERG) discovered that physical appearance and personality have a positive effect on earnings in the marketplace.

While beauty’s effects on earnings have been analyzed before, “Beauty and the Labor Market: Accounting for the Additional Effects of Personality and Grooming” took it a step further. Co-authored by UM professors Michael French and Phil Robins and senior research associate at HERG Jenny Homer, the study also looked at personality and grooming.

“We’re finding that these non-cognitive factors do matter from the very beginning,” Robins said.

The group began their research over four years ago by studying the effects of those characteristics on high school GPA. They found that, although beauty on its own affected students’ GPA positively, when grooming and personality were thrown into the mix, personality was the most important factor for girls with high GPAs and grooming was the most important factor for boys.

For their most recent study, HERG took the same group of students and followed them into their careers from ages 18-26 to see what effect the three traits had on their earnings. There, they found similar results. Men with better grooming made higher wages, and so did women with better personalities.

“I think it revolves around the fact that society likes women to have pleasant personalities more than men. Maybe men are assumed to be more aggressive,” French said.

There’s a lot of literature showing that men are more effective negotiators,” French said. “So a pleasant personality may not be a social norm for men, whereas grooming, perhaps wearing sharp clothes and dressing like an executive, is important for men.”

Christian Garcia, director of the Toppel Career Center, agrees that personality, beauty and grooming have a positive effect on success in the job market.

He said while he could not account for a person’s beauty, if someone is hoping to impress a potential employer at an interview or get a promotion over a competing employee, he or she better look good and act professionally.

“All employers for the most part want students who present themselves professionally, who look polished and who look confident,” Garcia said.

In terms of an interview, he equated looking good to doing research on the company that is interviewing. Dressing well and looking neat is all about the preparation. And personality only adds to the mix.

“You can have all the skills in the world, but if you don’t have a personality that is going to mesh well with the organization, that can hold you back,” Garcia said. “Companies want to make sure you can fit in their culture.”

Michael Gotterer, a junior majoring in accounting and finance, said that he feels businesses have come to expect good grooming and personality as part of their protocol.

“I wouldn’t say it’s about the way you look, but it’s about the way you conduct yourself, whether you look confident and you come prepared,” said Gotterer. “Dress and looking clean-cut helps a person’s image.”

However, dress and organization can often vary by industry.

Although the researchers controlled the variables by accounting for different professions, Robins said that appearance can often determine wages based on career on the basis of actual productivity.

He used newscasters as an example, saying that more physically attractive newscasters will generate higher ratings, therefore generating higher paychecks.

Yet there is always the possibility for employer bias.

“It also may be that employers treat people differently based on the way they look,” Robins said.

At Toppel, Garcia stresses that one of the most important factors in maintaining a career is dressing for the job.

“You have to know your industry,” Garcia said. “I think it’s knowing what’s going to help you get ahead.”

Alexandra Leon may be contacted at aleon@themiamihurricane.com.

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