A new study published in PLOS One has found a relationship between a person’s body shape and their family income. The findings provide more evidence for the “beauty premium” — a phenomenon in which people who are physically attractive tend to earn more than their less attractive counterparts.

Researchers have consistently found evidence for the beauty premium. But Suyong Song, an associate professor at The University of Iowa, and his colleagues observed that the measurements used to gauge physical appearance suffered some important limitations.

“I have been curious of whether or not there is physical attractiveness premium in labor market outcomes. One of the challenges is how researchers overcome reporting errors in body measures such as height or weight, as most previous studies often defined physical appearance from subjective opinions based on surveys,” Song explained.

“The other challenge is how to define body shapes from these body measures, as these measures are too simple to provide a complete description of body shapes. In this study, collaborated with one of my coauthors (Stephen Baek at University of Virginia), we use novel data which contains three-dimensional whole-body scans. Using a state-of-the art machine learning technique, called graphical autoencoder, we addressed these concerns.”

The researchers used the deep machine learning methods to identify important physical features in whole-body scans of 2,383 individuals from North America.

The data came from the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource (CAESAR) project, a study conducted primarily by the U.S. Air Force from 1998 to 2000. The dataset included detailed demographic information, tape measure and caliper body measurements, and digital three-dimensional whole-body scans of participants.

“The findings showed that there is a statistically significant relationship between physical appearance and family income and that these associations differ across genders,” Song told PsyPost. “In particular, the male’s stature has a positive impact on family income, whereas the female’s obesity has a negative impact on family income.”

The researchers estimated “that one centimeter increase in stature (converted in height) is associated with approximately $998 increase in family income for a male who earns $70,000 of the median family income.” For women, the researchers estimated that “one unit decrease in obesity (converted in BMI) is associated…

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