Physical attractiveness is associated with many positive outcomes – greater happiness, higher wages, better jobs, and even higher cognitive outcomes. According to a recent study published in Economics and Human Biology, beauty is also associated with lower support for redistribution. Attractive individuals are more likely to attribute economic success to individual effort, as opposed to external circumstances.
Studies examining the association between looks and political preferences have found that attractive people are more supportive of right-wing parties. Researchers have interpreted this result by suggesting that by earning more money, attractive people become less favorable toward redistribution and more supportive of right-wing politics. In this work, Andrea Fazio adds to this finding by explicitly testing the relation between beauty and individual support for income redistribution.
The research team extracted 2008-2018 data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), a biennial survey that is representative of the German population. From 2008 and onwards, this survey included a question on the attractiveness of the interviewed participants. Participants were approximately 50-years-old on average; roughly 50% of the sample was male.
Participants provided ratings to statements such as, “The state must ensure that people can live on a decent income, even in illness, hardship, unemployment and old age” or “Income should not be based solely on individual achievement. Instead, everybody should have what they and their family need for a decent life” ranging from “agree completely” to “disagree completely.”
Interviews were conducted in-person, and interviewers rated the facial and body attractiveness of participants on an 11-point scale. To account for potential interviewer biases, the research team controlled for the interviewer fixed effect in the regression models. Other variables of interest included age, gender, marital status, as well as year and region. Measures of education, household income, and employment were also included.
Fazio found that attractiveness was negatively associated with support for redistribution – this was the case for both men and women. Further, attractive people were more likely to endorse the belief that economic success was dependent on individual effort. Importantly, this association remained after controlling for household income, employment status, education, and parental background. The author argues, “the relationship between beauty and preferences for redistribution is not fully explained by the beauty premium in the labor market.”
Attractiveness was also negatively associated with voting behavior for the Social Democratic Party, and positively correlated with voting for the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. However, when controlling for labor market outcomes, only the correlation between attractiveness and voting behavior for the FDP remained. Historically, the FDP has supported low taxation and a free-market economy.
Fazio writes, “Perhaps, the relationship between attractiveness and redistributive preferences might depend on how attractive individuals rationalize the success they gain thanks to their beauty. An example can be the self-serving bias, i.e., people tend to attribute success to their own actions and failure to external factors. Attractiveness improves a considerable number of socio-economic outcomes, but good-looking subjects might hardly recognize that part of their success depends on their beauty.”
The author concludes, “Additional research is needed to further investigate the relationship between attractiveness, political preferences, and meritocratic beliefs. Specifically, it would be interesting to understand how attractive individuals rationalize the social success they receive thanks to beauty.”
The study, “Attractiveness and preferences for redistribution”, was authored by Andrea Fazio.