Beauty and Human Capital Nefertiti

The Reason That Certain Quarterbacks Earn More

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 2, 2014    •    773 Views

A 3.2 difference in a facial symmetry score can mean an extra $378,000 in  pay for a quarterback. According to research from economist David Berri on salaries from 1995-2009, if a quarterback is better looking, his salary will exceed others with similar ability.

With 92 the average for normal looking people, this “good looks”score was on the high end for:

  • Matt Ryan: 99.8 (Atlanta Falcons)
  • Russell Wilson: 99.4 (Seattle Seahawks)
  • Tom Brady: 98.98 (New England Patriots)
  • Peyton Manning: 98.97 (Denver Broncos)

In the Freakonomics podcast that I listened to yesterday, University of Texas economist Dan Hamermesh spoke about his research on the impact of being attractive. At the beginning of life cute babies are cuddled more, in grade school, teachers tend to favor better looking students, and at work, looks can affect how much we earn.

Hamermesh cited studies confirming the impact of of looks on wages. In labor markets, men at the bottom of the looks scale can have an 8% to 10% wage penalty. If you are destined to earn the lifetime 40-year average of $1.6 million (undiscounted), then the looks factor could mean plus or minus several hundred thousands dollars.

As economists, we are talking about human capital. With better looking individuals receiving more favorable treatment, they can experience more successful human capital development in school and then, like handsome quarterbacks, advantageous treatment in labor markets.

Sources and Resources: For a discussion of the value of good looks, not only was the Freakonomics podcast interesting but also the academic papers they cited. “Ugly Criminals” hypothesized the connection between substandard looks and crime while  “What Does It Mean to find the Face of the Franchise? Physical Attractiveness and the Evaluation of Athletic Performance,” sought to correlate quarterbacks’ salaries and good looks.


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