Attractiveness is associated with the belief that economic success depends on individual effort rather than external circumstances
Physical attractiveness is associated with many positive outcomes – more happiness, higher wages, better jobs, and even higher cognitive outcomes. According to a recent study published in Economics and human biology, beauty is also associated with less support for redistribution. Attractive people are more likely to attribute economic success to individual effort, as opposed to external circumstances.
Studies examining the association between appearance and political preferences have found that attractive people are more supportive of right-wing parties. The researchers interpreted this result by suggesting that as they make more money, attractive people become less supportive of redistribution and more supportive of right-wing politics. In this work, Andrea Fazio completes this observation by explicitly testing the relationship between beauty and individual support for the redistribution of income.
The research team extracted 2008-2018 data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), a biennial survey representative of the German population. From 2008, this survey included a question on the attractiveness of the participants surveyed. The participants were around 50 years old on average; approximately 50% of the sample was male.
Participants gave ratings to statements such as, “The State must ensure that people can live with a decent income, even in the event of illness, precariousness, unemployment and old age” Where “Income should not be based solely on individual achievement. Instead, everyone should have what they and their families need to live a decent life.” from “Totally agree” at “completely disagree”.
Interviews were conducted in person, and interviewers rated participants’ face and body attractiveness on an 11-point scale. To account for potential interviewer bias, the research team controlled for the interviewer fixed effect in the regression models. Other variables of interest included age, sex, marital status, as well as year and region. Measures of education, household income and employment were also included.
Fazio found that attractiveness was negatively associated with support for redistribution – this was the case for both men and women. Additionally, attractive people were more likely to endorse the idea that economic success depended on individual effort. Importantly, this association remained after controlling for household income, employment status, education, and parental background. The author argues that “the relationship between beauty and redistributive preferences is not entirely explained by the beauty premium in the labor market”.
Attractiveness was also negatively associated with voting behavior for the Social Democratic Party and positively correlated with voting for the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. However, controlling for labor market outcomes, only the correlation between attractiveness and FDP voting behavior remained. Historically, the FDP has supported low taxation and a market economy.
Fazio writes, “Perhaps the relationship between attractiveness and redistributive preferences might depend on how attractive individuals rationalize the success they achieve through their beauty. An example may be selfish bias, where people tend to attribute success to their own actions and failure to external factors. Attractiveness improves a considerable number of socio-economic outcomes, but beautiful subjects might hardly recognize that part of their success depends on their beauty.
The author concludes: “Further research is needed to explore the relationship between attractiveness, political preferences and meritocratic beliefs. Concretely, it would be interesting to understand how attractive individuals rationalize the social success they obtain thanks to beauty.
The study, “Attractiveness and Preferences for Redistribution”, was written by Andrea Fazio.