Virtual Voices

Review: Beauty Pays

Books

Beauty may only be skin deep but, according to economist Daniel Hamermesh, being ugly is going to cost you. In his book Beauty Pays (Princeton University Press, 2011), Hamermesh uses various surveys-both his own and others'-to contend that attractive people earn a startling $230,000 more during their lifetimes than homely people. Less attractive people, he reports, also find it more difficult to enter certain occupations, have a harder time obtaining loans, and enter the dating and marriage game with a "weaker hand."

Hamermesh's solution: that ugly people be protected by law. He proposes to add them to the Americans with Disabilities Act, making them eligible for monetary compensation if they suffer discrimination.

Although dry at times, Beauty Pays is intriguing and easy to read. Oddly, Hamermesh concedes that exact evidence on beauty is impossible to nail down but still argues for strong legal remedies. Aside from the obvious difficulty of enforcing such a law (Who is ugly enough to qualify?), he says there may be "as much logical justification for protecting ugly workers through public policy as for protecting African Americans"-an idea that may not be so popular. That said, Beauty Pays provides an important reminder: In a society that discriminates against the less attractive, Christians should hesitate to judge a book by its cover.

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