A new study concludes that good looks tend to improve a student’s chances of academic success, including better grades in high school.
The study, led by a sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, compared 8,918 students from around the country from high school until after after college. The study used controls like class difficulty and socioeconomic factors, such as parents’ educational backgrounds, to select students who were academically comparable. To avoid researchers’ personal biases on looks, the study used commonly listed characteristics from surveys on attractiveness, including facial symmetry, to rate students’ physical appearance.
The researchers found that students with above-average attractiveness were 3 percentage points more likely to have finished a baccalaureate degree. Roughly one-third of that difference stems from students’ grades in high school.
But attractiveness has a downside, lead researcher Rachel A. Gordon writes in a separate brief published by the Council on Contemporary Families.
“Youth rated as more physically attractive are more likely to date, have sexual partners, and drink heavily. These factors, in turn, have negative consequences for immediate grades and later college completion,” Gordon writes, but do not, ultimately, outweigh the benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the January 15, 2014 edition of Education Week as In Grading, Looks Matter, Says Study