Attractiveness Associated with Higher Grades Among Women


More attractive female students in pharmacy school may receive higher grades than their less attractive peers.

More attractive female students in pharmacy school may receive higher grades than their less attractive peers.

Jumping off of previous studies that showed attractive workers tend to get higher salaries, new research suggests that appearance also makes a difference when it comes to grading.

Researchers at Metropolitan State University of Denver analyzed grades in college courses taking place inside a classroom and online.

They found evidence of a link between high grades and attractiveness, but this association was significantly smaller for men and women taking online classes.

“We interpret this result as evidence that the return to appearance is more likely a result of discrimination than a reflection of otherwise unobserved productivity,” the researchers concluded.

They collected student records, which included grades earned between 2006 and 2011, plus photo IDs from students at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Then, “raters” who were neither students nor faculty at the school were selected to provide their opinion on the students’ appearances. These individuals were shown each student ID and asked to provide a score of 1 to 10.

In total, the researchers compiled 6777 individuals and 168,092 grade observations.

Their results showed that female students with below-average ratings for appearance had “significantly worse grade outcomes.” However, there was no significant evidence of this relationship existing for male students.

The researchers did provide another point of view for why more attractive students receive higher grades: they suggested that professors may pay more attention to more attractive students and provide less support to less attractive students.

“As a result, these students learn less, accumulate less human capital, and perform worse in the evaluation of the course,” the researchers argued. “The more attractive students do earn higher grades, but these higher grades are actually a result of higher learning.”

Other findings from the study included:

  • Male students tended to earn lower grades than their female peers.
  • Grades are lower in online courses. Around 20% of grades for online classes are Fs, while only 11% of grades for in-person classes are Fs.
  • Male professors tend to give higher grades than female professors.

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