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Student Appearance and Academic Performance

Rey Hernández-Julián and Christina Peters

Journal of Human Capital, 2017, vol. 11, issue 2, 247 - 262

Abstract: Studies have shown that attractive people have higher earnings. In this paper, we test the hypothesis that physical attractiveness proxies for unobserved productivity. We compare the impact of attractiveness on grades in college courses where instructors directly observe the student’s appearance and courses where they do not. We find that in traditional classrooms, appearance matters: both below- and above-average-appearance female students earn lower grades. In regressions including student fixed effects, we find that students of above-average appearance earn significantly lower grades in online courses than those in traditional courses, a finding driven mainly by courses taught by male instructors. Our empirical evidence provides little support for the hypothesis that appearance is a proxy for productive traits but instead suggests that the return to appearance is due to discrimination.

Date: 2017
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