Skip to comments.The Ugliness Problem- Is it irrational to discriminate against the appearance-challenged?
Posted on 08/04/2005 1:38:38 PM PDT by Asphalt
Is it irrational to discriminate against the appearance-challenged? Not entirely.
A sizeable and growing body of literature attests to the fact that homely people confront disadvantages not only in the competition for spouses but in many other areas of life. They have lower incomes than handsome types. When accused of crime, they tend to be dealt with more harshly by judges and juries. One recent report, sorrowfully dwelt upon by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, concludes that less attractive children are discriminated against by their own parents. (Parents are alleged to be less mindful of the safety of unattractive tots.)
In most academic venues and popular media the reaction has been to emphasize the irrational thinking that underlies discrimination against the ugly. The alternative perspective, about to be advanced on this page, questions whether the discrimination really is so irrational.
The classic article about the economic effects of physical appearance, published in the December 1994 American Economic Review, was written by Daniel S. Hamermesh (University of Texas, Austin) and Jeff E. Biddle (Michigan State). It relies on three studies (two American, one Canadian) in which interviewers visited people's homes, asked the occupants a lot of questions about their education, training and job histories, and discreetly (one hopes) rated each man or woman on physical attractiveness. The ratings were on a scale of one (best) to five (worst). In the larger of the two American samples 15% of interviewees were rated "quite plain" or "homely"--categories four and five.
Hamermesh and Biddle found that men in the top two categories enjoyed incomes 5% above those of men rated merely average in appearance. The unfortunate fellows in the two bottom categories were paid 9% below the average. The results for women workers were somewhat similar, except that the workplace effects were smaller. The study controlled for differences in education, experience and several other factors affecting pay but did not measure (and thus did not adjust for) intelligence.
Hamermesh and Biddle agree that it's rational to pay more for good looks in some occupations, e.g., salesperson, but deny that this explains much of the pay gap. They leave you thinking that the basic dynamic is pure employer discrimination--a simple preference for good-looking people. Their paper says nothing about the policy implications of this perspective, but in a recent conversation with Hamermesh I discovered that he is sympathetic to ugly people who want laws to bar the discrimination.
But is it entirely irrational to view ugly people as generally less competent than beautiful people? It is hard to accept that employers in a competitive economy would irrationally persist in paying a premium for beauty--while somehow never noticing that all those lookers were in fact no more intelligent and reliable than the ugly characters being turned down. In the standard economic model of discrimination put forward years ago by Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, employers who discriminate irrationally get punished by the market, i.e., by competitors able to hire competence at lower rates.
The mating practices of human beings offer a reason for thinking beauty and intelligence might come in the same package. The logic of this covariance was explained to me years ago by a Harvard psychologist who had been reading a history of the Rothschild family. His mischievous but astute observation: The family founders, in 18th-century Frankfurt, were supremely ugly, but several generations later, after successive marriages to supremely beautiful women, the men in the family were indistinguishable from movie stars. The Rothschild effect, as you could call it, is well established in sociology research: Men everywhere want to marry beautiful women, and women everywhere want socially dominant (i.e., intelligent) husbands. When competent men marry pretty women, the couple tends to have children above average in both competence and looks. Covariance is everywhere. At the other end of the scale, too, there is a connection between looks and smarts. According to Erdal Tekin, a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, low attractiveness ratings predict lower test scores and a greater likelihood of criminal activity.
Antidiscrimination laws being what they are, it is sometimes difficult for an employer to give intelligence tests or even to ascertain criminal histories. So maybe the managers who subconsciously award a few extra points to the handsome applicants are rational. Or at least not quite as stupid as they look.
I posted those two guys four years ago and it was deleted by the mod. I think it was too scary for people to see.
First let me state that I am a woman. I have a friend whose husband I thought was rather cute when I first met him. He opened his mouth and I've never thought him cute ever again. He is a dimwit and he isn't blond either.
According to Erdal Tekin, a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, low attractiveness ratings predict lower test scores and a greater likelihood of criminal activity.
And the fact that less educated/intelligent people might not take as good care of themselves never crossed their minds...
I too absolutely detest having my pic taken.
I have been known to pull film out of cameras.
I have no idea what you look like, but I think all Republican Biker Chicks are cool.
The ORIGINAL Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach)!
You just let me worry about the wording of the law.
"When I was born the doctor took one look at my face, turned me over and said, "Look, twins!""
Well, if you do, use the one with the most humor use available.
Never get into fights with ugly people, they have nothing to lose.
I am holding your pic to keep you from posting mine!
Well, I at least got someone to marry me. Poor bastard!
If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life Never make a pretty women your wife Go for my personal point of view Get an ugly girl to marry you A pretty women makes her husband look small it very often causes his downfall As soon as he merrys her then she starts to do the things that will break his heart but if you make an ugly women your wife you'll be happy for the rest of your life An ugly women cooks meals on time and she'll always give you a piece of Mind
When you look up ugly in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Waxman.
I can't post yours.
I filled up my web space and cannot post yours.
Judging from the pic of you, he's a lucky..
Well.. you'lll just have to trust my eyes then!
a marine could never be ugly. ;]
I agree with you there.
I'm so glad my children were all good looking! I guess they are too.
thank God for that!!
I was kidding
There is someone for everyone, do not give up. We are our own worst critics.
Hmmm I look just like that....at least I have all those lines on my face. Is that what you mean?
Thanks Darks, you are far too kind!
"And we were poor too. Why, if I wasn't born a boy, I'd have nothing to play with!"
It means that the Feds will soon come up with Affirmative Action legislation forcing Employers to set up a quota to hire Ugly People.
They will suggest catchy slogans for Employment Ads, such as:
"If you're a Boofer, We'll make you an offer!" or "We (HEART) Uglies!" or "We are an Equal Ugly Employer".
Do I qualify?
Either one of those works just fine.......
It's not right, but it's natural..
< /cliffclavinmode >
Catherine beats what's-her-face anytime. (I'm female & I'm allowed an opinion, right?)
Catherine looks like a natural in the outfit. What's-her-face looks like a high-price call girl in same outfit.
Charisma trumps looks any time, in my experience. People who are average looking but have great personalities and great self-confidence often do better in life than attractive people with no personality or confidence. It's amazing how much charisma can accomplish. Case in point is a woman I knew in college. She was far from attractive. Her nose was very prominent, she had a lazy eye, her breasts were so large that they sagged like a 50 year old's (she was 19), she had broad mannish shoulders, she was overweight, and she dyed her hair a very unnatrual shade of blonde that did not flatter her skin tone. Yet this woman had dozens of men wrapped around her little finger. At any given time she was dating at least 3 different guys, all whom were older (usually grad students) and were generally very good-looking. She could walk into a party or even the campus coffeeshop, strike up a few conversations, and soon have several men falling all over themselves to be with her. Some of these men did this despite the fact that it put their academic careers in jepoardy (they were her TA's). It was totally charisma on her part. She wasn't even nice to these men; she cheated on them and lied constantly. In general her personality was as ugly as her physical appearence. But her charisma just put a spell on everyone. Even I fell for it; when I first met her I thought she was just the most fascinating and friendly girl ever. It took me quite a few months to realize what a jerk she was.
Another example: Plain Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who married the then Duke of York and later became queen of England. She was said to be incredibly charming. Wallis Simpson, who was well-dressed and slender but quite homely, managed to snag the future King Edward VIII. She was not exactly charismatic or charming, but she had confidence and style to burn.
According to Rush: Feminism was created so ugly women had access to mainstream America.
I am thinking that if ugly men and ugly women got together for the ugly movement two things would occur...
OOOOOpppppppssssss sorry that has happened and one of the thing was the formation of the democrat party.
Hey, izzit your birthday, martin? Congrats!!!
DBR is a QTpie. ;o)
Hey, people are nice to me, out of sympathy, I think. ;o)
Sho' 'uff IS!