May 20, 2009 -- Good looks may help people land jobs, but brains also give folks a leg up in climbing the salary ladder, new research shows.
“Little is known about why there are income disparities between the good-looking and the not-so-good-looking,” says Timothy Judge, PhD, a management professor at the University of Florida. “We’ve found that, even accounting for intelligence, a person’s feeling of self-worth is enhanced by how attractive they are and this, in turn, results in higher pay.”
Judge and his team analyzed data from the Harvard Study of Health and Life Quality, a national study.
Their research findings appear in the May issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
The researchers looked at 191 men and women between the ages of 25 and 75, each interviewed three times, six months apart beginning in 1995.
The participants answered questions about household income, financial strain, education, and also evaluated how happy or disappointed they were with their achievements up to that time.
Then they completed several intelligence and cognitive tests to assess mental ability and had their photographs taken to assess physical attractiveness.
Scientific researchers averaged the results of six ratings of each person’s attractiveness, relative to their age and gender.
Taking into account factors such as age, race, and sex, Judge and his team found that physical attractiveness had a significant impact not only on how much people got paid, but how educated they were and how they evaluated themselves.
The bottom line: People who were rated as good-looking made more money, were better educated, and were more confident. But a person’s intelligence affected their income more than their looks did.
“We can be somewhat heartened by the fact that the effects of general intelligence on income were stronger than those of facial attractiveness,” Judge and colleagues write. “It turns out that the brainy are not necessarily at a disadvantage to the beautiful, and if one possesses intelligence and good looks, then all the better.”
Good-looking people do tend to think more highly of their worth and capabilities, which may lead to less financial stress and more money, the researchers say.
"Moreover, the effects of self-concept are particularly noteworthy. Its effects on income are stronger than those of attractiveness and nearly as strong as those of intelligence. The influence of core self-evaluations on both income and financial strain underlines the critical role it can play in both objective and subjective life success," the researchers say.