extended family walking on beach

New research finds that children with parents who score higher for physical attractiveness earn more than their peers with less attractive parents.

According to a working paper published by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) — authored by academics from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Glasgow — disparities in physical beauty translate into income inequalities that are transmitted across generations.

“With the mapping of the human genome, geneticists have now found specific genes that, taken together, are related to expressions of potentially income-enhancing physical characteristics that may be correlated across generations,” the paper said.

In this case, the researchers tackle the question of physical beauty and whether it’s correlated with the income of the next generation.

The researchers suggest there are two mechanisms that reinforce this effect based around the assumption that increased physical attractiveness is correlated with higher income, as are other inherited traits such as height and intelligence.

For one, people who are considered more attractive tend to have offspring that are rated higher for looks, so their children enjoy an income advantage based directly on their own looks.

“Using four datasets, two that allow relating parents’ looks to those of their children, two that enable measuring the correlation of siblings looks, we estimate that, if parents’ looks are ten percentage-points above average, their child’s looks will be four percentage-points above average,” the paper said.

And second, the income of children is correlated with the income of their parents. Parents who earned more, in part, due to their physical appeal, also tend to have higher-earning kids.

Overall, the researchers conclude that, based on estimates of “the impact of beauty on earnings and the intergenerational elasticity of income suggests that one standard-deviation difference in parents’ looks generates a 0.06 standard-deviation difference in their adult child’s earnings.”

“In monetary terms, compared to average earnings of all workers in the U.S. in 2022, it amounts to over $2,300 per annum, or an extra $106,000 of income over an average working life of 45 years,” the paper said.