Are attractive people really happier?

Do you think you would be happier if you were better looking?


Do you think you would be happier if you were better looking? According to Daniel S. Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin and author of Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, the answer is yes. Here, he explains.

Q: In what ways are attractive people more successful?

A: They earn more money. They wind up marrying spouses who earn more money — and who are better looking. They are happier.

Q: If that is the case, why do attractive women sometimes claim that they have trouble being taken seriously? Don’t we also have a social bias against attractive people, often assuming that they can’t be both beautiful and brainy?

A: I call this the “bimbo effect,” but there is only very sparse evidence for it in actual research studies. The correlation between looks and intelligence is essentially zero. And in most studies, every increase in how one’s looks are regarded is associated with greater success in the particular endeavor that is being analyzed. As to why some attractive women claim this, that is not something that I have seen research on. But remember, complaining is human nature, and perhaps if you have nothing else to complain about because your looks have given you so many advantages, this is one of the few remaining things to complain about.

Q: They might have better jobs and nicer cars, but are attractive people happier?

A: Most definitely, attractive people are happier. That’s true for both men and women. For men, the evidence says they are happier because of the advantages — higher earnings, more attractive wives — that their looks generate for them. For women, this is also part of the story, but among women their good looks per se make them happier. Just being better looking, regardless of its other effects, makes women happier.

Q: If one is genetically doomed to average (or even below average) looks, what can be done to level the playing field?

A: As with any characteristic you are lacking, you should instead stress those characteristics that you have in abundance. So if you are smart, musical, strong, artistic or whatever, stress those, take advantage of those, and don’t bother about the fact that you may not be gorgeous. There are many things that affect success, and we all are well endowed in at least one of them.