Do good looks get high school students good grades?

April 22, 2009

CORAL GABLES, FL (April 22, 2009)--Do personal traits predict success in school? If so, which dimension of one's outward appearance can tell the most about academic achievement? The answers to these questions are found in a new study by researchers from the University of Miami Health Economics Research Group. The study is the first to demonstrate that non-cognitive traits play an important role in the assignment of grades in high school.

Economists have examined the role that beauty plays on the type of employment, earnings, productivity and the likelihood of politicians being elected to office, and have wondered if "beauty premiums" and "plainness penalties" in the labor market come from an accumulation of differences in attention and rewards received from teachers throughout the school years. 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 Labour Economics.

The study offers a new perspective in an area of research that until now was almost exclusively focused on adults. It examines the effect of three personal characteristics--physical attractiveness, personality and grooming--on students' grade point averages (GPA) in high school. The primary objective is to determine which aspects of these non-cognitive personal traits are more strongly linked to academic achievement, said Michael T. French, professor of health economics in the UM College of Arts and Sciences and one of the authors of the study.

"Several studies in the literature have found that physical attractiveness is significantly related to labor market earnings for men and women. Thus, we were somewhat surprised to find that physical attractiveness was not the most important non-cognitive predictor of grades," French said. "Instead grooming and personality were stronger predictors of academic success in high school for boys and girls, respectively."

Looking at GPA as a function of a long list of individual, familial, school, and environmental characteristics that are likely to affect academic performance, the researchers were able to make several significant observations, including:In conclusion, the study posits that students may be able to "trade-off" different personal characteristics to improve academic achievement and that this trend may affect future success in college, the labor market and family formation.
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The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. www.miami.edu

University of Miami

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