[Beauty Pays] attempts to explain why attractive people make more money than unattractive people. A lot more money, in fact: $230,000 over the course of a lifetime, which holds true even in professions where looks wouldn’t seem to matter. Hamermesh found that fetching professors, for example, earn 6 percent more than their average-looking peers, while unattractive quarterbacks earn 12 percent less than their hunkier counterparts. Men, in fact, suffer the greater repulsiveness penalty in general: Unattractive women earn 3 percent less than average-looking women, while unattractive men’s take-home is reduced a whopping 22 percent.
But wait—how can something as subjective as beauty hold any value in an economic context? Therein lies the cold truth at the heart of these findings: A common standard of beauty does exist. Based on an attractiveness scale of one to five, most people surveyed will come to near agreement on a test subject’s looks, a finding that holds true across all cultures. And while extreme beauty and extreme ugliness are rare, 10 to 15 percent or so of the population falls into the “below-average attractiveness” category, where they will endure their pronounced asymmetries as long as they live. Beauty is not only scarce, it turns out, but unobtainable to those born without it: Studies show that homeliness is approximately as easy to change as race, which is to say, it’s not.
Interesting. Also an older study by Hamermesh google dug out.