Beauty and Inequality: Is It Rational to Invest in Beauty Capital in the Life Course?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jun KOBAYASHI, Department of Sociology, Seikei University, Tokyo, Japan
Naho TINIMOTO, Kansai University, Japan
(1) Research Question:

    Economics has revealed that good-looking people earn more than others. Thus, it looks rational to invest in beauty as human capital. However, it is not yet specified whether such physical attractiveness affect the whole life course such as education, occupation, marriage, and child-bearing. So, this paper investigates the impact of looks on the life course.

(2) Methods:

    We use a representative sample in a city in Tokyo, Japan with N=283. Looks at the age of 20 are rated by respondents themselves in a 10-point scale.

(3) Results:

    Beauty increased earnings, chances of promotion, numbers of lovers before marriage, and those of children. But it had no effects on education, occupations, nor chances of marriage. So, we found some beauty premium and some plainness penalty in their life courses.

(4) Conclusion:

    Beauty pays in a part of the life course. This suggests that physical appearances may work as human capital. If so, rational people will invest in “beauty capital” to raise their values in the labor, romance, and marriage markets. The next step should be to clarify how such beauty capital is formed, accumulated, and transferred to other capital.