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Turns out it does pay to be good-looking

Fed also finds being plain can cost you

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Associated Press / April 8, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- Why wasn't I born rich instead of handsome? Or so the lament goes. But the nation's central bank says that if you're gorgeous, chances are better that you'll be paid more.

An analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests good-looking people tend to make more money and get promoted more often than those with average looks. It is published in the April edition of The Regional Economist, the Fed's quarterly magazine.

Research analyst Kristie Engemann and economist Michael Owyang looked at the possible link between appearance and wages by evaluating previous surveys and research. Their conclusion: It helps to be tall, slender, and attractive.

Less clear was whether the less attractive are victims of bias, or if good-looking people tend to develop self-confidence and social skills that simply enhance their marketability.

''It doesn't seem like antidiscrimination laws, even if you enforce them strictly, would be a magic bullet," Owyang said.

The researchers cited a study that found a 9 percent ''plainness penalty," meaning a person with below-average looks tended to earn 9 percent less than those with average looks, and a ''beauty premium" of 5 percent. One study showed obese women earned 17 percent less than average-weight women.

Jean Seawright, a human resources consultant in Winter Park, Fla., said the analysis backs up what she sees in the workplace.

''To some degree, it's that the [boss] is drawn to certain characteristics, and they tend to put more weight on that," Seawright said.

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