Publication Details

26 Apr 10

Identifying Beauty and the Beast in the Labour Market: Returns to Physical Appearance in Luxembourg.

Authors: DOORLEY Karina, SIERMINSKA Eva.

Abstract: Like in so many areas of life, Shakespeare had excellent insight into the sometimes misleading effects of physical appearance. In this note, we attempt to discover whether the glitter of an appealing physical appearance leads to higher pay. Past academic research has shown that earnings are positively related to beauty in the labour market. Some researchers have argued that this relationship could be due to discrimination, either by employers or customers (in the service sector) so that more beautiful people are less exposed to discriminatory behaviour. If this is the case, the topic is relevant for Luxembourg given the introduction of a number of “equality of treatment” laws in 2006 and 2008. We examine whether, after controlling for the impact of various socio-economic characteristics, people’s self-perceived appearance compared to their peers is positively related to their wages in Luxembourg. While a positive finding could reflect the fact that better looking people are more confident or have other desirable labour market attributes that lead to higher wages, it could also be a preliminary indicator of discrimination based on physical appearance. In our analysis, we use the discrimination module of the 2007 wave of PSELL3/EU-SILC. Our main variables of interest are the respondent’s opinion of how important physical appearance is in the labour market, their self-assessed physical appearance and their hourly wages2. The physical appearance variables are self-perceived and are assumed to be in no way influenced by interviewers or other factors related to data collection.

Reference: DOORLEY Karina, SIERMINSKA Eva. Identifying Beauty and the Beast in the Labour Market: Returns to Physical Appearance in Luxembourg. CEPS/INSTEAD, 2010, Vivre au Luxembourg n°65, 2 p.

labour market,
physical appearance,