Sep 7, 2021 - News
The "beauty premium" is real, but remote work could change that
Illustration of a mirror with a dollar sign reflected in it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new study from the University of Iowa found that the "beauty premium" — the idea that tall men and skinny women earn more money — is real.

State of play: There's long-standing research suggesting that people perceived to be more "physically attractive" than the average Joe or Jane earn better pay, despite no superior intellect in comparison to others.

What's new: UI researchers used 3D body scans to assess measurement data collected from 2,000+ people in the U.S. between 1998 and 2000.

  • They say the technology is more accurate than self-reported measurements previous studies relied on.

What they found: Men with $70,000 annual household income saw a $998 income increase for every 1 centimeter increase in height.

  • Meanwhile, women saw an association between obesity and family income. Women who met the same income criteria saw a $934 income increase for a one-unit decrease in body mass index.
  • And it didn't matter the other way around — women's heights or men's BMI didn't influence incomes.

The intrigue: Remote work is changing things up and probably for the better, said Suyong Song, a University of Iowa associate professor of economics and finance who co-authored the study.

  • Recruiting and work over Zoom at least eliminates some of the physical attributes people can discriminate over, like height.
  • "Awareness of such implicit bias is very important, like a race or gender bias," Song said.

Of note: One caveat is that the data only includes family income, not individual income, Song told PsyPost.

  • The study does consider race, education, work experience and occupation.

Thought bubble: You shouldn't feel the need to change how you look to get the money you deserve.

  • Instead, workplaces need to address biases and establish systems that encourage objective hiring and pay practices.
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