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Productivity or Discrimination? Beauty and the Exams


  • We thank N. Tommasi for excellent research assistance. We received helpful comments from O. Ashenfelter, E. Cannon, D. S. Hamermesh, D. Lubian, M. Menon and F. Perali. We are also indebted to the anonymous referees of this journal for very valuable comments.


Do good looks make people more productive? An impact of looks on earnings has been found in the empirical literature: plain people earn less than average-looking people who in turn earn less than good-looking people. However, an important question remains unanswered: is the impact of beauty due to pure discrimination or productivity? We provide evidence against the hypothesis of Becker-type discrimination stemming from tastes and in favour of productivity-related discrimination.