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Attractiveness Puts You on Track for Success

Better-looking teens get higher grades and grow up to make more money than less-attractive peers, according to a new study.
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Good-looking high school students have a great advantage over their less attractive peers in terms of grades and professional success, a new study to be released Friday finds.

According to the study, which pulled from data on 9,000 U.S. high school students from the class of 1994-95 through their 20s and 30s, shows that more attractive teens have higher GPAs and as adults receive higher pay.

The research is published in the report, Physical Attractiveness and the Accumulation of Social and Human Capital in Adolescence and Young Adulthood. The pool of students was a nationally representative sample of 9,000 teens from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and interviewers rated the students' attractiveness, looked at their grade point averages, and conducted multiple interviews through adulthood.

"The attractive do have a GPA advantage (over) the average," sociologist Rachel Gordon of the University of Illinois-Chicago told USA Today.

The study found that the more-attractive students had greater advantages through high school and into their professional career. Gordon says the good-looking teens were on a brighter path to success--they were more likely to receive a college degree and land a better-paying job than their average-looking and "ugly" counterparts.

But the beautiful people also had some disadvantages, Gordon says, which may have a negative impact on grades and health. More attractive high schoolers were found to drink more heavily and have more sexual partners.

Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles familiar with the study, says that a society that values looks may actually harm women shooting for executive positions in business. "Attractive women will get a benefit overall in occupations, but when you're talking about leadership positions, being sexually attractive actually works against you," Heldman told USA Today.

Compared with average-looking teens, the students rated by the researchers as "below average" didn't show an overall disadvantage when it came to grades. But those rated "on the ugly side of looks" were found to have fewer friends and be more depressed than their average-looking peers in high school and through early adulthood.

But what does this mean for entrepreneurs? Jack Dorsey gets a lot of flack for worrying about his looks, but maybe he is on to something. For company founders, consider these findings when you're building up your company. The study could not find an attractive bias with teachers, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. Earlier studies have found that more attractive professionals get paid more, so make sure an attractive bias isn't informing your business decisions or hiring process.

What do you think? Is there an advantage to being attractive in business? Are all those heartthrob entrepreneurs earning their big bucks? Entreprenseurs like Dorsey and Gauri Nanda, founder of Nanda Home, certainly have the looks, but both also have the brains. Let us know your reaction to this study.

IMAGE: University of Central Arkansas/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 10, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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