I know. Rock with me for a second.
In an interesting New York Times op-ed last month, economics Professor Daniel S. Hamermesh argues that “looks challenged” people should qualify for employment protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Hamermesh bases his argument on the research that suggests that attractive people consistently out earn their less attractive counterparts (by about $250,000 over a lifetime). While attractiveness is certainly subjective, Hamermesh argues that across the job spectrum—from Prostitutes and Doctors, to Professors and Politicians—beauty is important.
For Hamermesh, attractiveness has little to do with physique (height/weight) and more to do with how “traditionally” attractive a person is.
To combat this inherent advantage for attractive people and to level the field for “looks challenged” individuals, Hamermesh argues that worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of population should qualify for legal protection.
It’s a matter of simple prejudice. Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors. This is not a matter of evil employers’ refusing to hire the ugly: in our roles as workers, customers and potential lovers we are all responsible for these effects.
How could we remedy this injustice? With all the gains to being good-looking, you would think that more people would get plastic surgery or makeovers to improve their looks. Many of us do all those things, but as studies have shown, such refinements make only small differences in our beauty. All that spending may make us feel better, but it doesn’t help us much in getting a better job or a more desirable mate.
A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?