Are Attractive People More Successful than Unattractive People?

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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  • Brynn


    June 5th, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    Sad that there are still so many people who are shallow enough to let how someone looks affect how easily they can get a job or how much better they get paid.

  • Sammy


    June 5th, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    In an ideal world,everybody should be employed on merit.But not so in the real world.This does happen and I would be surprised if there is anybody who has not seen or heard of this.

    The point to note here is most of this is due to the society.Its not like ‘unattractive’ people (which in itself sounds demeaning) are not as intelligent.It only means the society and its institutions treat them that way.

  • Gail


    June 5th, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Ares successful people more attractive than unsuccessful people? I think there is a valid question of causation and correlation. Successful people tend to have certain things figured out. They may be less needy, have more self awareness and self confidence than those who are not yet successful. Successful people are often admired, looked up to and can be inspirational to those who are yet to find their path.

    I like the use of the word “attractive” in your title. Attraction is much broader than beautiful, pretty or symmetrical. Be cautious not to confuse attraction with the modern westernised understanding of physical beauty, A friendly gaze and a warm smile can go a long way towards making someone attractive, which, in turn can open doors for them.

  • Sally High

    Sally High

    June 6th, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    Great article! I agree that this should not be a shock to hear that more attractive people on average, are treated better in regards to income, opportunities, etc. it’s a shame because in a perfect world we would not be judged on our outer appearance. Society, media, etc all display images and the idea that the “pretty ones” get all of the attention. This is why as parents, society and professionals we need to team together to teach our children at a young age that the phrases such as, “sex sells”, and ” the pretty ones always get the boy, job, etc”, is harmful to their self esteem and keep pressing forward to change this stigma. On the flip side, I have worked with many attractive people in my life and hear them say that they wish they were taken more serious in the work place and that they feel frustrated at times (especially women), when their bosses and co workers flirt with them and don’t take them serious.

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