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Pulchronomics: How Always Looking Good Has A Big ‘Pay Off’

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The way you look or see yourself can have a big impact on your confidence or self-respect. But when there’s a price tag on your looks, it becomes so much more, taking over your entire life. It could get exhausting. This ‘price tag’ was conceptualized by Daniel Hamermesh and is called ‘pulchronomics’ a.k.a. the economics of beauty. He believes that the way you look directly affects the amount of money you make, and your level of job satisfaction. With dozens of existing pressures for women to look a particular way, this theory has only magnified what most of us already know – looks matter.

After speaking to a few women, we realized that ‘Pulchronomics’ is very much a reality for women, not only at work but in other areas too. Here’s everything we found.

At Work

Attractive workers are believed to bring in more business, making them more desirable. Statistically, the way you look is the first thing a panel notices in a job interview. An attractive worker earns 12% more than someone seen as less attractive. In a paper called ‘Why Beauty Matters,’ Markus Mobius and Tanya Rosenblat identified why this happens. Firstly, more attractive workers are thought to be more able and that’s why employers are willing to give 10.5% higher salaries to attractive people simply by looking at photographs of candidates. Since most interactions happen over the phone, sounding attractive can also add to your “beauty premium.” Physically attractive workers are also more confident.

Thanks to the “halo effect” – which causes people to judge your entire character based on your outer appearance – attractive people are considered more sociable, dominant, healthy and intelligent, and these skills impress employers immediately. Lastly, attractive workers have better social skills, so it’s easier for them to negotiate for higher wages. Basically, better-looking women benefit from the “beauty premium,” while ones that are considered unattractive suffer from the “ugliness penalty.”

In Relationships

While most people say they prefer a good sense of humor, intelligence, and a caring personality, looks are important in a lot of relationships. A survey showed that in the first seven years of marriage, physical appearance is one of the things that matters the most. Shreya Poddar, a couple’s counselor, says that in India since arranged marriages are still so big, physical appearance is extremely important. When people have only a few hours to choose a husband or wife, looks are often the only thing that comes into play. Since Indian women typically dependent on the men for money, the pressure of looking good is on the woman while being wealthy is on the man. For a lot of men, having an attractive wife is almost like a status symbol. A study conducted at UCLA observed that men who weren’t with extremely attractive women were less likely to help out their partners. They basically thought that they had settled and that they could have done better. This insecurity motivates women to try and look better and proper at all times. Men have been termed as visual beings, while women are considered emotional creatures. Due to this, women feel the need to dress well and maintain themselves to keep their boyfriend or husbands’ attention. If women don’t do these things they feel like they may lose the ‘spark’ in their relationship.

At School Or College

Good looking students are often given more attention and better grades by their professors because it’s assumed that better-looking children will be more successful as adults. This positive attention is beneficial in the long run as well since it molds them into more confident adults. One study found that the most attractive women earned the highest grades, while least attractive women got the lowest grades. This disparity disappeared completely though when people took online courses, as the way one looks didn’t come into the picture.

While the way students look impacts their grades, the way professors look impact the willingness of students to actually learn. On websites like ratemyprofessors.com, students judged their teachers based on their looks, rather than how well they teach. Researchers at the University of Nevada found that better-looking professors were able to garner better classroom results since they are given more attention and concentration.


Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook often make women feel pressured to live the ‘ideal’ lives. Platforms like Instagram have become a major part of our everyday lives. People are constantly scrolling through posts, looking for the latest trends, and following social figures. When you post something on one of these platforms, there is immediate gratification in the form of likes, follows, and comments. This positive attention makes women feel like all the effort is worth it. Most people regularly look for new posts and videos uploaded by fitness trainers, and beauty bloggers. Trainers like Kayla Itsines have over 9.7 million followers, and people all over the world aspire to look like her. Through her page, she documents the progress of different women based on the results of her Bikini Body Guides. Women go to all sorts of lengths to try and adapt to these trends, and look a certain way in hopes to attract more people, and increase their online social standing. It makes them feel like they are a part of something bigger, and if they are unable to fit in, they feel undesired and incapable.

Forgetting that what we see is often far from the truth, there is added pressure to only post pictures with makeup on, or those where they are properly dressed up. Women rarely post pictures in sweatpants or after a meal, as they think people will judge them for looking anything less than perfect. It’s like everyone’s a part of this undeclared competition, trying to fit in with the unsaid norms of society.

In the Mirror

Sometimes, the ‘pay off’ of looking good is simply the happiness and confidence that a woman feels for herself. On one episode of Modern Family, the family likes to give Claire bad news only when she comes back from her one spa day every month, because of the great mood she’s in at the time. Women like to pamper themselves once in a while because of the way it makes them feel. Hamermesh’s study found that “beauty affects their happiness independent of its impact on their incomes, marriage prospects and other outcomes.” Getting all dressed up once in a while just puts you in a really good mood, and increases both positivity and productivity. Researchers have found that when we think about how good we look, it tends to dominate our feelings, and assumes a great amount of importance for us at the moment.

The reason women do things like apply makeup on a daily basis, or spend thousands of rupees on their wardrobe is that these ‘investments’ pay off in one way or another. From straightening their hair to contouring their faces, and plucking almost every hair on their body, women do pretty much anything to look like the best versions of themselves, every single minute of the day.

But there’s a downside. ‘The Bimbo Effect’ also proves that looking too good is also a problem. Extremely attractive women may find it harder to prove their competence and intelligence in male-dominated fields. They are also considered difficult to work with, ‘bitchy’, and entitled. Clearly, there’s no winning for women, no wonder all of this is so much work.

Pulchronomics: How Always Looking Good Has A Big ‘Pay Off’ was last modified: by
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