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Attractive Appearance Affects Students' GPAs


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

If you have ever wondered whether physical attractiveness, grooming and personality help to get the best grades at school, you would be absolutely right. According to the new findings by the University of Miami Health Economics Research Group, all these non-cognitive traits play not the last role when it comes to the assignment of grades in high school and are more likely to indicate future success in college and labor markets.

For many years economists have been analyzing the role that good looks play on the type of employment, salary, productivity and the likelihood of politicians being elected to the office. The have also wondered if "beauty premiums" and "plainness penalties" in the labor market come from an accumulation of differences in attention and rewards that are being received from teachers during the school years. The main goal of this new study was to figure out which aspects of the three personal characteristics, such as physical beauty, personality and grooming, are more strongly associated with academic achievement, said Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami College and a co-author of the study.

Some previous research in the literature has revealed that physical attractiveness is greatly associated with the labor market earnings for both men and women, Dr. French said. Therefore, the experts were surprised when they discovered that attractive appearance turned out to be not the most important non-cognitive predictor of grades. "Instead, grooming and personality were stronger predictors of academic success in high school for boys and girls, respectively," the scientist added.

By looking at GPA (grade point average) as a function of a long list of individual, familial, school, and environmental traits that are likely to influence academic performance, the investigators were able to make several very important observations.

  • Physical attractiveness has a positive effect on GPA for both boys and girls, but only when considered alone. When physical attractiveness is considered along with grooming and personality, the positive effect of physical beauty on high school grades turns out to be negative for representatives of both genders.

  • For male students, grooming was found to deliver the biggest overall effect on their GPA. For girls, personality is positively linked to GPA.

  • Physical appearance can be a way for teenagers to either agree with, or rebel against adult's standards. However, no matter what attitude is being chosen by a student, it does not seem to influence much their GPAs.

  • The results showed that a certain degree of teacher bias is present in favor of, or against certain types of students.

  • Overall, Hispanic and African American students have lower GPAs compared to white students, and female students have higher GPAs when compared to males.

  • Students living with a mother who has high education, those that live in a two-parent household and those who attend a small school have higher GPAs compared to those who are being raised in different circumstances.

  • There is a negative association between receiving social assistance and students' GPAs.

The investigators concluded that students may be able to "trade-off" different personal traits in order to improve their academic grades and that this trend may turn out to be very effective for the future success in college, the labor market as well as for a family formation.

Findings from this peer-reviewed study, titled: "Effects of Physical Attractiveness, Personality and Grooming on Academic Performance in High School," will be published in the next issue of the journal Labor Economics.

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