June 5, 2018 – Rey Hernández-Julián on “the ugliness penalty”

Rey explained that there is very high inter-rater reliability regarding attractiveness, meaning raters tend to agree on who is very attractive, somewhat attractive, somewhat unattractive, and very unattractive.

He then shared the literature on how perceived attractiveness correlates with higher pay and higher grades. He described his own research on appearance and grades, which found that even in online classes, students who are perceived as more attractive earn higher grades. Our discussion delved into whether people who are perceived as more attractive are actually better workers, and therefore “deserving” of better salaries, and better students, or whether implicit biases cause hiring managers and faculty to reward perceived attractiveness.


Questions to continue the discussion: 

  1. What role might perceived attractiveness play in jobs like auto sales versus telephone marketing?
  2. Why might someone who is generally perceived as attractive do better in an online class than someone who is generally perceived as unattractive?
  3. What economic value does attractiveness have?
  4. Can you think of decisions you have made that were driven by your perception of someone else’s attractiveness?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  

Rey Hernández-Julián, Professor of Economics and Finance at MSU Denver, researches predictors of student grades in higher education (including appearance), as well as the economics of religion, health, and demography. His teaching interests include the economics of race and gender, econometrics, and personal finance. He is also a big fan and referee of rugby. He lives in Denver’s uptown neighborhood with his husband, Dan, and the cutest 3-year old tornado, Rosa.

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