Imagine living in a world where salaries are based on merit? You probably can’t conceive of such a utopia — all you’ve ever known is a reality where men get paid more than women. The masochists who follow sociologists’ studies on salaries also know that there’s a proven correlation between attractiveness and income. In what could be considered either a cruel or encouraging caveat, new research also shows that grooming affects how much women (and men, but not nearly as much, of course) get paid. In short, the more effort you put into styling your hair, dressing and putting on makeup, the more you earn. Call it the Kardashian Law of Economics.
A recent paper by Jaclyn Wong of the University of Chicago and Andrew Penner of the University of California at Irvine, entitled “Gender and the Returns to Attractiveness,” showed that although “physically attractive individuals have higher income than average individuals” — to the tune of 20 percent — this finding doesn’t necessarily apply to women who tend to their appearance.
The researchers based their data on a long-running national survey of over 14,000 individuals who answered a variety of questions regarding their income, job, education and personality, among other things, along with an interviewer rating of each participant’s general attractiveness and level of grooming. (Seems like a fairly subjective observation. We wonder how future research could control for interviewers’ personal bias when rating subjects.)
Then, controlling for variables such as age, race, education, agreeableness, conscientiousness and so forth, the scientists compared the salaries of subjects who’d received the same attractiveness and grooming scores, respectively.
The results showed attractiveness did not affect women’s salaries more or less than it did men’s. However, the researchers did find that women have more wiggle room than men when it comes to what’s considered “attractive.”
“For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming,” explained Wong. In other words, on average, women who are considered highly to middling attractive don’t earn as much as their less attractive, but more well-groomed peers. (We suppose this is a tiny consolation/compensation for all said peers’ trips to Sephora.)
Theories abound as to why this is true. One is that women have a wider range of options — and room for error — when it comes to professional attire (especially if they work at Condé Nast). The same goes for hairstyles, makeup usage, etc. By comparison, men have it easy with their suits and short coifs.
Wong also speculates that “the beauty myth” may be to blame. For those not familiar, said myth is a term coined by feminist author Naomi Wolf, who argues that society impels women to pursue unrealistic standards of beauty in order to control and constrain them. Both of these explanations sound pretty spot on to us.
All the more reason for everyone to work from home, we say.
[ via The Washington Post ]