"Beauty Is the Promise of Happiness"?
We measure the impact of individuals' looks on life satisfaction/happiness. Using five data sets, from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Germany, we construct beauty measures in different ways that allow placing lower bounds on the effects of beauty. Beauty raises happiness: A one standard-deviation change in beauty generates about 0.10 standard deviations of additional satisfaction/happiness among men, 0.12 among women. Accounting for a wide variety of covariates, particularly effects in the labor and marriage markets, including those that might be affected by differences in beauty, the impact among men is more than halved, among women slightly less than halved.
We thank Joel Waldfogel for inspiring this project, Katrin Auspurg, George Borjas, Chris Bollinger, Gábor Kézdi, Markus Klemm, Andrew Oswald, Karl Scholz, and participants at several universities and institutes for helpful comments. We are also grateful to Sean Banks, Steven Boren and David Northrup for help in obtaining the older data sets. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.