February 23, 2009

Vol. 24 , No. 07   

View Entire Issue (Vol. 24 , No. 07)

Beauty in the Labor Market

Do good-looking people earn more, how much more, and why? Is the effect the same for men and women? Does it mean employers discriminate against ugly workers? Do good looks make people more productive — can we ever distinguish between the effects of beauty, or some other characteristic, as discrimination or productivity? Does buying clothing and beauty treatments raise earnings power? Is hiring good-looking people a good strategy for companies? Should the government offer affirmative action programs for ugly people? According to a study performed by Daniel Hamermesh, men in North America who have below-average looks make 9% less an hour than a comparable man of average looks. Men with above-average looks, however, make 5.4% more an hour than an average looking man.

Daniel S. Hamermesh is Edward Everett Hale Centennial Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. His A.B. is from the University of Chicago (1965), his Ph.D. from Yale (1969). He taught from 1969-73 at Princeton, from 1973-93 at Michigan State. He has held visiting professorships at universities in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, and lectured at over 200 universities in 46 states and 27 foreign countries. His research, published in nearly 100 refereed papers in scholarly journals, has concentrated on time use, labor demand, social programs, academic labor markets and unusual applications of labor economics (to beauty, sleep and suicide).
Hamermesh is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the Society of Labor Economists, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (IZA), and Past President of the Society of Labor Economists and of the Midwest Economics Association. His magnum opus, Labor Demand, was published by Princeton University Press in 1993. In 2005 McGraw-Hill Irwin published the second edition of his Economics Is Everywhere, a series of 400 vignettes designed to illustrate the ubiquity of economics in everyday life and how the simple tools in a microeconomics principles class can be used. His undergraduate teaching has gained him several University-wide teaching awards.

Daniel Hamermesh’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Lowe Institute of Political Economy and the Athenaeum.