Daniel Hamermesh in the NYT:
Beauty is as much an issue for men as for women. While extensive research shows that women’s looks have bigger impacts in the market for mates, another large group of studies demonstrates that men’s looks have bigger impacts on the job.
Why this disparate treatment of looks in so many areas of life? 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?