Do employers prefer blondes?
Earlier this month I was sent a new study that found that there’s yet another bonus of being blonde, and this one is unexpected: Blondes get paid more than women with any other hair color. This surprised me, and so I read further.
David Johnston, an economist at Queensland University in Australia, scoured a database of 12,686 Caucasian women ages 25 and older living in the United States. The database identified the natural hair color of each woman [light blonde (1.6%), blonde (19.0%), light brown (21.8%), brown (51.2%), black (2.4%) and red (4.0%)], their hourly wages, their marital status, their husbands’ hourly wages, and their education level. Johnston controlled for height, weight, eye color, education, and other variables.
Contrary to the (silly) perception that blondes are dumb, the data reveal that they have as much education as women of any other hair color. But, interestingly, they earn 7 percent more than women with any other hair color — the market equivalent of an extra year of education. (For the same job that pays darker-haired women $50,000 yearly, blondes would get paid $53,500). No other hair color but blond appears to influence a woman’s salary.
Blondes in the marriage market also appear to get a monetary boost. The data show that blondes marry men who earn 6 percent more on average than the husbands of women with other hair colors. Blondes appear to attract and marry higher-earners. Or wealthier men appear to marry blondes.
Johnston speculates tepidly on the reasons why blondes appear to have an advantage wage-wise. Skin color is one. Although all the women were Caucasian, natural blondes may have fairer skin, associated with countries with a strong work ethic (Northern European).
More plausibly, he cites attractiveness as a paycheck-plumper. Blondes may be perceived as prettier, and beauties are known to get paid more than plain Janes. Even if they aren’t inherently more beautiful, blondes, boosted by public perception, may be more confident, social, and therefore have better communication skills. They may be (wrongly) perceived as being more productive and valuable as employees.
What Johnston doesn’t break down are the types of occupations in which the women are employed. Among waitresses, dancers, Fox newscasters, and Mary Kay saleswomen, perhaps blond hair is a bonus. But do blond doctors and librarians, physicists and writers really earn more than their darker-haired colleagues? I hope not.