Pretty people finish first — that’s a well-documented phenomenon. Folks who fall outside of cultural beauty norms — who are fatter or not white or less white or older or whatever else — make less money over their lifetimes. Economics professor Daniel S. Hamermesh suggests that people who are discriminated against because of their looks should be able to sue if they can show that their employer demonstrated a pattern of looks-based discrimination.
Now, suing over discrimination isn’t exactly new, especially where physical appearance is involved. Women have been on the losing end of those battles for years, and courts have held that women can be fired from their jobs for not wearing enough make-up or not wearing revealing uniforms (women have also been fired for being too sexy or too fat or too-whatever-else). But Hamermesh isn’t really concerned about women — he’s worried about men, of course:
Another scintillating point argued by Hamermesh is that while women often bear the brunt of looks bias in the mating arena, men are more affected by looks discrimination in the professional world, since their gender still comprises the majority of the working population.
“Most men will work, regardless of their looks. Women still have some choice about whether to work for pay,” says Hamermesh. “If a woman is bad-looking and she knows she will be penalized in the workplace, she will be less likely to work.”
Hamermesh backs up the bold assertion with study statistics he published in the American Economic Review in 1994 with co-author Jeff Biddle, Ph.D.
In the study, women ranked as the most unattractive seventh of the female population were five percentage points less likely to work than average-looking women. Meanwhile, women who ranked in the top third of attractiveness were five percentage points more likely to work than the average.
I’m quoted in response. You can head over there to read it.