A new study published in Economics and Human Biology suggests that physical attractiveness determines how many perks a person receives at their job.
Previous research has revealed significant evidence that a person’s physical attractiveness can influence their success in the labor market. Studies have consistently shown that attractive individuals earn higher wages than their less attractive counterparts — something called the “beauty premium.” Study author Maryam Dilmaghani wanted to extend this research beyond wages and turn the discussion towards job perks.
As Dilmaghani relates, fringe benefits are crucial to the discussion of job quality. Benefits such as insurance, paid vacation, pension, and parental leave are important components of an employee’s overall compensation. Still, the association between a person’s attractiveness and the number of fringe benefits they receive has yet to be studied.
Data was analyzed from Statistics Canada’s 2016 Canadian General Social Survey, using a final sample of 3,250 men and 3,253 women. As a measure of physical attractiveness, the current study considered subjects’ responses to the question, “How satisfied are you with your physical appearance, such as your weight, height, or features?”, to which participants responded along an 11-point scale.
The survey also questioned respondents about the number of fringe benefits they received, including “pension, paid sick leave, paid vacation, paid parental leave, disability insurance, supplementary medical and dental insurance, worker’s compensation plan, and ‘Other.’ ”
Dilmaghani additionally considered variables that might influence the relationship between attractiveness and worker’s compensation. For example, studies suggest that attractiveness tends to correlate with confidence, and confidence can influence one’s competency at work, likely leading to higher wages. Therefore, Dilmaghani conducted several regression analyses to account for the variables of confidence, communication skills, and degree of interpersonal relationships at work.
Results showed that, after accounting for several potentially interfering variables, the less attractive respondents were persistently less likely to receive a given fringe benefit than the more attractive respondents – and this was true for both men and women.
As the author reports, “when all the relevant controls are accounted for, unattractive males have just above 1.1 fewer fringe benefits than their more attractive counterparts”, and, “the coefficient for unattractive females is at 0.677 fewer fringe benefits, about half of the gap found for unattractive males.”
The study had its drawbacks, including that the measure of physical attractiveness was self-reported and susceptible to bias. Still, the study’s findings were substantial and warrant future investigation.
“Examined for the first time,” Dilmaghani notes, “the data strongly point to the existence of a fringe benefit penalty for unattractiveness. Given that the penalty was robustly present in the subsample of workers with a university education and a perfect education-job match, the possibility of discrimination cannot be excluded.”
As Dilmaghani suggests, it seems unlikely that employers are excluding certain unattractive employees from fringe benefits, given that these premiums are typically part of company policy. “Therefore,” the researcher speculates, “it is likely that the root-cause of the observed gaps in the number of fringe benefits lie in the advantages of more attractive individuals in securing higher quality jobs (Cabral Vieira et al., 2005; Nekoei and Weber, 2017), in the first place.”
The study, “Beauty perks: Physical appearance, earnings, and fringe benefits”, was authored by Maryam Dilmaghani.