Beauty Premiums Among Academics


This paper examines the effects of instructors’ attractiveness on student evaluations of their teaching. We build on previous studies by holding both observed and unobserved characteristics of the instructor and classes constant. Our identification strategy exploits the fact that many instructors, in addition to traditional teaching in the classroom, also teach in the online environment, where attractiveness is either unknown or less salient. We utilize multiple attractiveness measures, including facial symmetry software, subjective evaluations, and a novel, proxy methodology that resembles a “Keynesian Beauty Contest.” We identify a substantial beauty premium in face-to-face classes for women but not for men. While gender on its own does not impact teaching evaluation scores, female instructors rated as more attractive receive higher instructional ratings. This result holds across several beauty measures, given a multitude of controls and while controlling for unobserved instructor characteristics and skills. Notably, the positive relationship between beauty and teaching effectiveness is not found in the online environment, suggesting the observed premium may be due to discrimination.

Publication Title

Economics of Education Review