Beauty, Job Tasks, and Wages: A New Conclusion About Employer Taste-Based Discrimination

35 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2018 Last revised: 22 May 2022

See all articles by Todd R. Stinebrickner

Todd R. Stinebrickner

University of Western Ontario - Department of Economics

Ralph Stinebrickner

Berea College; University of Western Ontario

Paul Sullivan

American University

Date Written: April 2018


We use novel data from the Berea Panel Study to reexamine the labor market mechanisms generating the beauty wage premium. We find that the beauty premium varies widely across jobs with different task requirements. Specifically, in jobs where existing research such as Hamermesh and Biddle (1994) has posited that attractiveness is plausibly a productivity enhancing attribute—those that require substantial amounts of interpersonal interaction—a large beauty premium exists. In contrast, in jobs where attractiveness seems unlikely to truly enhance productivity—jobs that require working with information and data—there is no beauty premium. This stark variation in the beauty premium across jobs is inconsistent with the employer-based discrimination explanation for the beauty premium, because this theory predicts that all jobs will favor attractive workers. Our approach is made possible by unique longitudinal task data, which was collected to address the concern that measurement error in variables describing the importance of interpersonal tasks would tend to bias results towards finding a primary role for employer taste-based discrimination. As such, it is perhaps not surprising that our conclusions about the importance of employer taste-based discrimination are in stark contrast to all previous research that has utilized a similar conceptual approach.

Suggested Citation

Stinebrickner, Todd R. and Stinebrickner, Ralph and Sullivan, Paul, Beauty, Job Tasks, and Wages: A New Conclusion About Employer Taste-Based Discrimination (April 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24479, Available at SSRN:

Todd R. Stinebrickner (Contact Author)

University of Western Ontario - Department of Economics ( email )

London, Ontario N6A 5B8

Ralph Stinebrickner

Berea College ( email )

Berea, KY 40404
United States

University of Western Ontario ( email )

1151 Richmond Street
Suite 2
London, Ontario N6A 5B8

Paul Sullivan

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20016-8029
United States


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