Good Looks = Good Grades?

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Physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming are remarkably accurate predictors of academic success in high school, according to a study by UM’s Health Economics Research Group

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Attractive Benefits
The effects of appearance on success in the workplace have long been documented; in fact, they’ve even earned nicknames such as “the beauty premium” and “the plainness penalty.” A new study by the University of Miami Health Economics Research Group is the first to demonstrate that similar factors are at play before we even enter the workplace, and can be clearly seen in the grade-point average (GPA) attained by high school students.

According to Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the College of Arts and Sciences and one of the authors of the study, the primary objective of the study was to examine the effect of three personal characteristics—physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming—on high school students’ GPAs, and to determine which aspects of these non-cognitive personal traits are more strongly linked to academic achievement.

Groomed for Greatness
“Several studies in the literature have found that physical attractiveness is significantly related to labor market earnings for men and women,” French says. “Thus we were somewhat surprised to find that physical attractiveness was not the most important non-cognitive predictor of grades.”

For male students, the study found, grooming delivers the biggest overall effect on GPA; for female students, personality is positively related to GPA. Gender, ethnicity, and educational levels attained by students’ parents, among other factors, also had an effect on GPA. The study concludes that students may be able to “trade off” different personal characteristics to improve academic achievement—and that this trend may affect future success in college, the labor market, and family formation.

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