According to a recent study, people who are considered attractive have higher intelligence, better education, and higher earnings than those who are considered less attractive. The study was led by Michaela Benzeval of the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the Medical Research Council in Scotland and was based on information gathered from a larger longitudinal study.
Almost 1,000 participants had been assessed for attractiveness at the age of 15. The participants were evaluated by three independent raters and were judged by physical appearance. It was found at the time that attractiveness was related to better socioeconomic status. Benzeval used the same participants, now in their mid-30s, for this most recent study. The goal was to determine whether attractiveness in adolescence predicted better outcomes later in life.
Benzeval looked at marital status, education, and income to determine overall advantages. The participants were also evaluated for self-esteem and self-worth. The results revealed that indeed, the more attractive participants seemed to have better outcomes in adulthood. Specifically, the most attractive teens went on to have the best paying jobs, best housing, and highest family incomes. They were also in higher employment positions than less attractive participants. And for women, attractiveness predicted higher education. However, there was no direct link between attractiveness and self-esteem or self-worth.
These findings may not be altogether surprising, and Benzeval believes that they are heavily influenced by society. Benzeval explains that gatekeepers to employment, such as employers, and gatekeepers to education, like teachers, may all offer more assistance and opportunity to attractive people because they perceive they are more intelligent than less attractive people.
Benzeval said, “For example, analyses of occupational earnings suggests that attractiveness does play a greater role in the wages of those in customer-orientated industries than in other kinds of occupations.” This could open doors for better looking individuals and allow them to rise to economic positions that their less attractive peers never achieve. Attractiveness also increased the chances of being married, especially for women. Benzeval believes that good-looking women may look for high earning, intelligent mates and together, the two partners pass their advantageous traits on to their children. This process of selection could explain why attractiveness in adolescence seems to increase the chances of affluence in later life.
Benzeval, M., Green, M.J., Macintyre, S. (2013). Does perceived physical attractiveness in adolescence predict better socioeconomic position in adulthood? Evidence from 20 years of follow up in a population cohort study. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63975. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063975
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