20 January 2019
Waitresses in Hooters get extra tips because of a beauty premium, while NBA stars like Kobe Bryant benefit from their height. Photos: Instagram, internet
Waitresses in Hooters get extra tips because of a beauty premium, while NBA stars like Kobe Bryant benefit from their height. Photos: Instagram, internet

How beauty premium pays off

The uniform of the Hooters Girls has become a hot topic in Hong Kong.

The US eatery chain, coming soon to the city, trades on the sex appeal of its waitresses, earning itself the title of the first chain of breastaurants.

So how will nature and nurture combine to affect its earnings?

Professor Michael Lynn of Cornell University surveyed 374 waitresses and found that those with larger bra sizes received higher tips.

The hourly salaries of Hooters Girls are similar to those of waitresses at other restaurants, but their earnings from tips are way higher.

Attractive men and women are paid 10 percent more than others for the same work — the so-called beauty premium.

On the other hand, people who are less attractive face a higher chance of becoming prisoners, research shows.

Movies, which have never been known for realism in casting, hire good-looking actors, even if they cost more, to play criminals — so as to lure viewers rather than drive them away.

Now, while, as the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, height should be less subjective.

However, there is also a height premium in the labor market.

Research has found that each extra inch of height is associated with an increase of 1-2 percent in average hourly earnings — for men and women.

Taller men and women are paid higher hourly rates and usually work longer hours.

A separate study shows that there was a higher crime rate among shorter Americans in the 19th century.

There are various biases baked into the beauty premium, the noted economist Daniel Hamermesh said.

The beauty premium stems from the fact that we rely too much on first impressions and judge people by their appearances. That’s why there is a vast market for plastic surgery.

The height premium can be explained largely by the association between height and self-confidence.

Taller girls and boys tend to be more confident at school and in social networking.

Another explanation is that healthier, better nourished children are significantly more likely to reach both their height potential and their cognitive potential.

If someone lacks the advantages provided by nature and nurture, they might be driven more easily to commit crimes because of gloomy job prospects.

As globalization continues, Hooters Girls are spreading across the world.

However, that won’t have a major impact on a city’s income gap, as Hooters Girls can serve only a limited number of tables.

National Basketball Association stars are just a few inches taller than ordinary guys, and an attractive appearance can make you one of the world’s movie stars.

Globalization has indeed widened the income gap, but only in sectors where a superstar effect can multiply the effects of the height or beauty premium.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 17.

Translation by Julie Zhu

– Contact us at [email protected]


associate professor at the Department of Economics, Clemson University

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