Physical attractiveness is associated with many positive outcomes – greater happiness, higher wages, better jobs, and even higher cognitive outcomes. According to a recent study published in Economics and Human Biology, beauty is also associated with lower redistribution support. Attractive individuals attribute economic success to individual efforts as opposed to external circumstances.
Studies examining the link between appearance and political preferences have shown that attractive people are more supportive of right-wing parties. Researchers have interpreted this result by suggesting that by making more money attractive people become less favorable to redistribution and more supportive of right-wing politics. In this work, Andrea Fazio adds to this finding by explicitly testing the relationship between beauty and individual support for income redistribution.
The research team extracted data for 2008-2018 from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), a biennial survey representative of the German population. From 2008, this survey contained a question about the attractiveness of the interviewed participants. The participants were on average about 50 years old; about 50% of the sample was male.
Participants rated statements such as, “The state must ensure that people can live on a decent income, even in the event of illness, deprivation, unemployment and old age” or “Income should not be based solely on individual performance. Instead, everyone should have what they and their families need for a decent life.” ranging from “totally agree” until “Totally disagree.”
The interviews were conducted in person and interviewers rated the attractiveness of the participants’ face and body on an 11-point scale. To account for potential interviewer biases, the research team controlled for the interviewer fixed effect in the regression models. Other variables of interest were age, gender, marital status, as well as year and region. Measures of education, family income and employment were also included.
Fazio found that attractiveness was negatively associated with redistribution support – this was the case for both men and women. Furthermore, attractive people were more likely to subscribe to the belief that economic success depended on individual effort. Importantly, this association persisted after controlling for household income, employment status, education, and parental background. The author states, “the relationship between beauty and redistribution preferences is not fully explained by the beauty premium in the job market.”
Attractiveness was also negatively associated with voting behavior for the Social Democratic Party and positively correlated with voting for the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. When controlling for labor market outcomes, however, only the correlation between attractiveness and voting behavior for the FDP remained. Historically, the FDP has supported low taxes and a free market economy.
Fazio writes, “Perhaps the relationship between attractiveness and redistributive preferences depends on how attractive individuals rationalize the success they achieve thanks to their beauty. An example could be the self-serving bias, that is, people tend to favor success. due to their own actions and failure to external factors. Attractiveness improves a significant number of socio-economic outcomes, but handsome subjects may hardly realize that part of their success depends on their beauty.”
The author concludes, “Additional research is needed to further explore the relationship between attractiveness, political preferences, and meritocratic beliefs. It would be particularly interesting to understand how attractive individuals rationalize the social success they achieve through beauty.”
The study, “Attractiveness and Redistribution Preferences,” was written by Andrea Fazio.