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Home / News / World /  For economists, looks do matter for success

Recruitment for many job roles has an unsaid bias towards attractive individuals. One would assume that academia would be different, and brains might matter much more. But new research finds that looks do matter in academia too, at least in economics.

The study, by Galina Hale of the University of California and her co-authors, is based on a survey of 752 respondents who graduated from the topmost economics departments in the US between 2002 and 2006. Data on their jobs, research and publications was used to measure their career trajectories, while their photographs were assessed for attractiveness by a group of 241 evaluators.

The more attractive an economist was, the more likely they were to get a private sector job after completing their PhDs, the study finds. The impact of looks didn’t fade even after they entered the job market, as more attractive individuals were found to be more productive at research on the job.

Among students who continued in academia after a PhD, the attractive ones were more likely to be placed in top-ranked institutions and have a superior publication record.

Appearance, the authors say, also rewards performance. Better looks can increase the chances of an economist being cited by other researchers.

The study finds that attractive academicians may be invited for more conferences because they present their work more convincingly or because they are more sought after as co-authors. The authors note that there may be employers who look for attractiveness even at the cost of talent and productivity.

The authors note that the impact of attractiveness that they found was not just statistically significant, but substantial in magnitude. They cite studies that suggest that beauty gets positive feedback, which in turn boosts confidence, resulting in better human interaction.

Read more: Do Looks Matter for an Academic Career in Economics?

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