The economics of beautification and beauty



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The first chapter examines adolescent beauty as a potential originator of the observed wage premium for adult beauty and finds that adolescent beauty has its own separate effect on adult wages. Adolescent beauty also affects early human capital development, as evidenced by its significant impact on educational outcomes. Changes in beauty over time are shown to be positively correlated with changes in wages for full-time workers, and changes in beauty are generally not correlated with appearance-related choice variables. I explore the possibility that self-confidence and social capital are potential mechanisms through which adolescent attractiveness affects future wages but find that these do not change the magnitude of the effects of adolescent beauty, although they are of themselves significant determinants of wages.

The second chapter examines the effects of personal grooming behaviors on earnings and shows evidence that these effects are due to persistent differences in preferences or productivity between workers displaying different grooming choices and not statistical discrimination on the part of employers. In a longitudinal sample of lawyers graduating from the same law school, men who wear glasses and men with facial hair face an earnings penalty in first-year income and to some extent in subsequent years. Some grooming behaviors are positively correlated with income in the 1970's cohort and negatively correlated with income in the 1980's cohort (and vice versa), suggesting that fashion signals change relatively quickly. I also find that grooming behaviors are correlated with beauty ratings and that the beauty premium is unaffected by earnings, but the estimated effects of some grooming behaviors partially result from their correlation with beauty. I do not find evidence that grooming behaviors act as a signaling mechanism in the labor market.

The third chapter evaluates the claim that design piracy is beneficial to certain status-goods firms. It builds on Pesendorfer's model of fashion cycles by introducing the possibility of design imitation for a market in which designs are used as a signaling mechanism. There exist equilibria in which both the designer and imitator are active in the market, but there are no conditions under which imitation is profitable to the designer. Under some conditions the presence of a potential imitator will ensure that the designer does not produce at all.