Free «A Test of the ''Beauty Premium'' on the Determination of Wages» Essay Sample


Beauty and personal presentation has been one of the factors that have been considered by many employers while recruiting their teams and setting the minimum amount of wages that can be paid to these employees. Most employers have been found to rely on the first impression that a person creates while attending job interviews to set the maximum amount of money that they can offer for such a person. According to Varian (2006) in an article that appeared in the New York Times, there are employers who have offered discriminating wages based on the appearance of a person. While carrying out assessment of their employees using their resumes alone without a fore knowledge about the looks of these employees, these employers remained unbiased and offered wages that did not vary so much. As a result, both those that were considered to be beautiful in appearance and those that were not got an average wage pay. In an amazing turn of events, there are employers who have began employing people whom they term as beautiful in departments where these employees won’t even be able to interact much with the customers, i.e. the technical departments.

There is an attachment that is associated with beauty in the society. Most people in society the world over like being associated with beauty. While this was an issue that was common in the social world, it has found its way into the employment world. In this regard, many employers have found it worthy to be associated with beauty, not just the physical beauty but also the total appearance and presentation of a person. The packaging of a person determines a lot. While in some cases, the overall packaging of a person may lead to one losing a job opportunity, there are other cases whereby one will loose salary benefits because of failing to package himself in a way that does not appeal to his employer. Among the notable employers who have focused much on ‘beauty premium’ are those are in direct link with their intended customers. For example, there is an emphasis on beauty in every media company, especially when it comes to the news anchors and presenters.



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Consequently, this research paper will focus more on beauty and wage levels in different industries and how ‘beauty premium’ affects the amount of money that is attached to a particular employee. Moreover, the issue of ‘beauty premium’ has the ability to attract attentions of the people with most people expecting beautiful people to be smarter and therefore more productive than the ordinary people in the society. While wages should be pegged on productivity and the quality of work that one is able to produce, the introduction of ‘beauty premium’ in the job market is also a factor that has to be considered at length and therefore cannot be ignored. There are also arguments that beauty is interrelated with confidence and sharpness, factors that are able to boost the overall productivity among people.

Literature Review

According to Mankiw (2008), there is a relationship that exists between the appearance of a person and the determination of wages that such a person needs to be paid (p.418). It was argued that people who were beautiful were able to receive a salary that was 5% more that people who were considered to be average in beauty. The arguments that are put forth by Mankiw states that people who were beautiful were considered or assumed to be more productive in the society than those people who were less beautiful. As a result, a good-looking employee was considered to be an asset to the business or organization thus enabling him to earn more than the average worker. On the other hand, beauty was also considered as a prerequisite to one having other character traits that enabled such a person to be productive. For example, it was considered that people who are beautiful are more intelligent and very sharp as compared to people who are not beautiful. Similarly, it was assumed that beauty was a sign that a person had inborn characteristics that could benefit the company where such a person worked. For example, if a person was successful in a ‘beauty’ survey, such a person was considered as one that had an ability to succeed even on his work. This was particularly considered to be true where personal presentation beauty played a critical role in determining the ‘beauty’ of a person.

There have also been laws and regulations that have been formulated with a move to cub the extend by which ‘beauty premium’ was utilized in allocating salary scales to employees and during the time of employing people. These laws and regulation have argued that employers have been developing the habits of employing people who are attractive and fair in appearance and failing to employ those people who were considered less attractive but more qualified to particular job openings. According to Fineman & Dougherty (2005), such laws and regulations should only be put into practice when the marginal benefit that was derived from employing people who were considered attractive was less than the overall product that was associated with utilizing the services of people who were considered less attractive (p.88). However, if this condition was not met, ‘beauty premium’ should not be considered as a form of employment discrimination on the job market. Fineman & Dougherty (2005) continue to assert that physical attractiveness of a person was being used as a factor in job promotions. Therefore, those employees who were less attractive failed to receive job promotions that guaranteed wages increase as compared to those people who were considered to be beautiful. This resource will play an important role in providing information in regard to laws and regulations against wage determination based on ‘beauty premium’.

Snower & de la Dehesa (1997) emphasize that education is no longer the only scale that is used in the current world to determine the skills that one has before being employed (p.252). While in the past, one had to show forth his/her educational prowess before securing a place in any business or organization, this is no longer so. As a result, an employee must possess other qualities for him to be employed and to be able to earn a certain amount of salary. While the less educated employees are being phased out from the workplace, education alone cannot guarantee that one will be employed. On the other hand, the issue of salary scale also plays a critical role in businesses and organizations. However, it should be noted that salary scale is pegged on beauty and physical appearance in people. Snower & de la Dehesa (1997) argue that it is not education alone that helps in determining the salary scale for employers. These arguments have created a channel to study other factors that influence wage determination among employers and is critical to this research in the sense that it creates an open door to examine factors that determine wages in businesses and organizations and in this case ‘beauty premium’. This varied in both men and women, with men being the most affected as those who had fair appearance were able to receive high wages than those who were considered to be less fair in appearance (p.273).

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The discrimination of employees by use of wages based on their beauty has also been contributed by customers.  According to Jacobsen & Skillman (2004), customers were much attracted to beautiful employees much more than they were attracted to employees who considered as being less beautiful (p.418). Similarly, a study of the firms in Holland revealed higher revenues in firms whose employment policy focused on getting employees who were ‘beautiful’ and ‘attractive’ in terms of how they presented themselves to the general public. This attraction of the customers to employees who were beautiful may have contributed to employers offering higher wages to them than what they offered to employees who are less beautiful since the beautiful employees are termed as having the ability to attract more customers than the average employees and as a result, are more profitable to the businesses and organizations. Jacobsen & Skillman (2004) captures in their work an element of the driving force behind the high wages for employees who considered as being beautiful and attractive. Such information can play a critical role in helping researchers to study some of the issues that causes beautiful employees to be paid more as compared to employees who were less beautiful and attractive.

One of issues that therefore emerge in this research is; Does the attraction of customers to ‘beautiful’ employees the reason why these employees are paid higher wages than employees that are considered to be less beautiful? This is because the work of literature that has been analyzed point to increase in revenue wherever ‘beautiful’ employed are involved. Similarly, there is an element of customer attraction that is portrayed in this scenario whereby ‘beautiful’ employees are more preferred by customers than employees that are less beautiful. Is personal


This research paper focused on the how ‘Beauty Premium’ contributed to the determination of wages in businesses and organizations. There are various sources that were used to gather the necessary information that provided the backbone of this research paper. Some of these sources included books whose authors had carried out extensive research on labor and wage determination. Similarly, there are various articles that were cited for this research as they provided current information and some statistics that were necessary in analyzing the topic of study in this research. The information that was obtained from these sources was deemed to be of great value to this research and it was analyzed using the modern analysis methods and presented in the trendiest way possible.

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Results and their discussion

The research came up with various results in its quest to determine the effects of ‘Beauty Premium’ on wage determination. To begin with, it was realized that customers were attracted to the most beautiful employees and preferred to be served by these employees rather than being served by employees that were less attractive. According to Barro (2003), as long as the customer thinks that a beautiful employee of a particular business or organization is beautiful and there brilliant, that customer will opt to be served by that customer rather than seeking to be attended to by an employee who is perceived to be less attractive (p.70). For example, if there are two bank cashiers who are waiting to serve customers, one who is less attractive and another one very beautiful and attractive. When a customer walks into the banking hall, there is a high probability that this customer will walk right to the counter of the beautiful cashier. A closer investigation may reveal that this aspect of customers being attracted to the most beautiful employees is among the causes of high productivity among these kinds of employees. Therefore, since they have that natural ability to attract customers, their employers may develop mentality that they are more productive than the others and therefore raise their wages by a certain percentage.

Past studies reveal that the intelligence of both the beautiful people and those that are perceived as ugly in the workforce does not vary by a big margin. Instead both have an average intelligence. According to Varian (2006), the productivity of both beautiful people and those that were considered as less beautiful have the same level of performance.  However, beautiful people were a lot more confident about what they did and therefore, they were able to outdo those that were not beautiful in their work. Such confidence is a character that increased the rate of customers they served. In most cases, customers prefer a person who knows exactly what he/she is doing when serving them. As a result, confidence plays a critical role in any form of work, especially where customers are involved. On the other hand, employers require workers who are able to promote the image of the business or organization both in serving the customers and in the general outlook of the organization. For example, financial service firms require that their employees are well versed with the financial problems and solutions that the corporate world faces on a daily basis. However, without confidence one cannot be able to provide financial advice to people that need it, whether he/she knows these solutions or not. In this regard, employers are willing to pay more for a beautiful employee rather than paying less for a less attractive employee who will not be able to attract customers to their firms.

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It was also found out that beauty is associated with good health, a factor that directly contributes to intelligence, confidence, alertness and productivity in any form of employment. As is reiterated by Barro (2003) in his work, people who were overweight earned wages that were below those that were not overweight (p.71). This is because these people were considered to be unhealthy and therefore lack certain characteristics that enhance the ability of a person to be productive in the society. According to Barro (2003), an overweight person earned a wage that was reduced by 12% for women and 9% for men. Most employers consider obesity as an inability for one to control his life and therefore may also be unable to take charge of work-related issues. Therefore, an obese employee was paid less as compared to those employees that were not obese. Similarly, when a customer is given an opportunity to choose an employee to serve him, the customer is less likely to choose an employee who is obese. The employer therefore cannot pay out the same amount of wage to this employee since he does not do a lot of work. Again his may not be perfect because of the status of his health.

The issue of health among employees has prompted many of them to take up workout programs to shed off extra weight that would reduce their earnings. A visit to gyms and even by just walking in the evening in residential areas and parks reveals how much people value their health. Most of them are employees who are out to exercise to ensure that their body physique is maintained. According to Knight (2008), there is an increase in the number of people who have been exercising every evening in order to maintain their body health and at the same time relieve stress, a factor that have been found to interfere with good health among people. Knight (2008) continue o argue beautiful people does not just earn more than people who are considered to be ugly but also have an upper hand over others when it comes to employment. The chances of a beautiful person being employed are high than those of an ugly person. It is believed that by exercising, people are able to maintain their beautiful figures and thus able to remain attractive in the society.

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This research also found out that there are measure that have been taken by the government by laying down policies that require employers to shun away from discriminating against people who are considered less beautiful in the society. However, these measures have been unsuccessful since there is defined ways in which one can say that a person has been discriminated against because of his/her appearance. This is because, when one attends an interview, one is never told why he was not successful except that he didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the firm. On the other hand, wages is a personal issue and many people are never comfortable to reveal what they earn. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether a person earns more than the other.

Beauty was something that was perceived and therefore cannot be defined completely. This is because there are no standards that can be used to measure beauty. It is actually in the eyes of the beholder and therefore, one cannot say that a particular person is more beautiful than the other and therefore deserves to be paid high wages. Barro (2003) argues that; ‘Of course, economic reasoning would imply that physical appearance is always a bona-fide worker characteristic as long as customers and coworkers think so’ (p.70). Beauty is more of a mental perception from both customers and coworkers. As a result of this there is a perception that beautiful people are more resourceful than those people who were considered less beautiful. Similarly, there is self awareness among employees concerning their beauty status and this may have contributed at great length the inferiority complex and lack of confidence among employees who are less beautiful since they are much aware of their beauty status. If one knew that he was weak in a particular area of his life, he was prone to making mistakes in this area even when it was easy for him to avoid these mistakes. The same applies to beauty. If a person understood that he was not beautiful, there is a psychological phenomenon that exposes these employees to their self thus causing then to loose their self confidence. Thus arguing from such point of view, these employees have a high probability of loosing their wages, not because they are incapable of performing in their work but because they don’t have enough confidence as they dispense their services.  

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There is also a strong association of human being to beauty in nature. People are attracted to beautiful things; flowers, dresses, shirts, beautiful building design, etc. No one wants to be associated with anything that is seen as ugly in nature. Arnhart (2005) argues that human beings have a tendency of desiring beauty in their lives (p.37). They have that attraction to beauty. As a result, the issue of beauty that enables people to earn more emanates from the fact that human beings are naturally attracted to beauty. As a result, beautiful employees are better placed to advance in their careers and in what they earn since each and every person would like to be associated with them. In an example that is provided by Mankiw (2008), people have been found to be attracted to particular movies and movie stars because of their physical beauty (p.418). This attraction to beautiful people can be cited as one of the issues that have contributed at length to the desire for beautiful employees by employers and by customers. Therefore, the general demand in the market for beautiful employees is high than the demand for employees who are less attractive causing employers to pay more for the services of these employees.

There is also an association of beauty to particular kind of industries, especially where these industries deals directly with the customers. One of the industries that values beauty and will go a notch higher to obtain a beautiful employee by paying high wages is the media industry. Apart from meeting academic requirements, anchors are expected to meet ‘beauty’ standards for them to appear on the screen. There are also cases of movie directors sourcing for beautiful actors to participate in their movies not because these actors are the best in the industry but because of their beauty. In most cases, these employers and directors are aware of the fact that there is a psychological effect that causes people to desire to be associated with beauty. For example, everybody would like to be like a particular movie star. That attraction to beauty is a guarantee of high revenue returns to many employers and therefore, they cannot hesitate in going an extra mile by paying high wages to obtain a beautiful employer (Barbas, 2002, p.77-78).

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While there are people who have earned their place in companies and organizations and earned better wages than their ugly counterparts, beauty alone cannot be used as the benchmark to determining the wages of employees. It cannot be used as a substitute for intelligence and productivity. According to Dobson (2007) in his article ‘The Independent’, reiterates that beauty as one of the factors that has determined the amount of money one earns and the time that one spend in climbing the employment ladder cannot be ignored. However, the employers have to keep their heads straight and ensure that they do not compromise with service delivery standards to their customers. There is a place of knowledge that needs to be integrated into the whole criteria of determining wages in an organization. Dwelling on beauty as a way of setting wages can easily work against a business or organization since it is not beauty that clients wants though it plays an important part. Instead, they are more interested in the service that is offered by that particular employee. Beauty is just but a supplement.

There are negative effects that are associated to ‘beauty premium’ as a way of determining wages. First, the ability of employers to tag higher wages on beauty has been found to affect people especially in the families. There are many employees who have been ‘bribed’ to shun away from family issues such as pregnancy for them to maintain they body physique as it is attractive to the intended customers. While it is important for one to earn good salary, life is not about work alone. There is also the issue of the family. In cases where these employees have defied these orders, most of them loose the high wage benefits as their value is seen to have decreased because of pregnancy. On the other hand, the beauty premium way of wage determination requires that the employee retain that beauty, failure to which one is bound to loose the wage benefits that have resulted because of his/her beauty. On the other hand, an obsession with beauty in determining wages has been found to lead to exploitation of masculinity and women sexuality as in most cases, these employees are paid higher wages than normal and their sexual status exploited in the sense that they are presented to the customer as sexual objects rather than human beings (Barbas, 2002).

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There is also an element of discrimination that undermines hard work of employees who are less attractive and instead promote the work of beautiful employees who may not necessarily be perfect in their work. For example, a financial services firm may employ two people to work for them, one ‘beautiful’ and another one ‘ugly’. Despite the fact that the ‘ugly’ one may be more resourceful than the ‘beautiful’ one, and better placed to handle customer financial issues than the beautiful employer, he/she will be assigned roles that require little interaction with the customer, thus killing the skills and knowledge that such an employee has leading to less pay because they are not doing a lot of work that involves dealing with the customers directly. Similarly, when carrying out filed research, the beautiful employees earn more in terms of allowances as he/she is the most preferred over the less attractive employee to be sent to the field. Such form of discrimination demoralizes other employees and reduces their production capabilities.


There are different factors that determine the wages of employees in the labor market. These factors vary from one employer to another, yet have a common background. However, one of the amazing factors that have been used to determine the amount of money that an employee will take home at the end of the month is beauty, commonly known as ‘Beauty Premium’. Employers have been moving away each and everyday from employing just people who are qualified academically, and promoting every person who performs well in their company or organization to employing people who have fair appearance. More so, there are high tendencies that a beautiful employee has high chances of growth than an employee who is considered less beautiful. There are different factors that have contributed to employers preferring employees who are more beautiful on their teams. Similarly, paying higher wages to these employees may not actually be justified, since both the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’ have the same score when it comes to productivity. From the research, it is evident that the driving force behind the high wages for beautiful employees is derived from perceived thoughts that they are better than the ‘ugly’ employees. This perception stems from three sides; one from the employer, coworkers and the customer.

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The coworkers of a beautiful employee believe that such a person is capable of doing every thing right and therefore, there is an attachment of ‘Mr., Mrs. or Miss Perfect’ mentality towards the beautiful employee. As a result, difficult tasks may be assigned to beautiful employees, an issue that erodes away the credit that could have been accorded to all employees irrespective of their beauty status. In such a case, the employers are vulnerable to noticing the work of the beautiful employees and thus award them by raising their wages. On the other hand, the confidence that is depicted among beautiful employees results in an attraction of customers as they believe that these employees are well versed with the problems they have and can easily help better than ugly employees. There is also an association of human beings to beauty. With such an advantage, beautiful employees are placed in a position whereby they are able to earn more and advance quickly in their careers more than employees who are less attractive since their beauty exposes their strengths to the employers more than their weaknesses.

Therefore, it can be concluded that beauty plays an important part if not critical in wage determination. Similarly, it enhances the chances of being employed in any business or organization. In this regard, further research should be carried out on the psychological phenomena of beauty and its impact not only on wage determination but also on the overall productivity of employees. For example, the psychological impact of beauty on employees, employers and customers should be analyzed at length to establish the place of beauty in the labor market and how it affects not only the business or organization but also the corporate world as a whole in terms of productivity and service delivery. Similarly, a research should be carried out on the effects of using beauty as a way of determining wages and how it affects employees who loose their beautiful texture because of one factor or another.


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