In Higher Ed, “Hottie” Profs Out Earn Others. What Does This Imply About Adjuncts?

From the Toronto Globe and Mail.

There’s lots of evidence that, in general, good looking people earn higher salaries. But why would hotness pay in academia? A professor’s salary is largely determined by what he or she teaches (Engineering pays better than English), rank (full professors earn more than associates or assistants), where he or she teaches, and his or her research productivity.

Yes, being good looking might make it easier to get an academic job in the first place. But surely, once a person has an academic job, intellectual ability – the ability to do original research – matters more than looks?

Indeed we found that female professors rated as “hot” by their students earn no more – and might even earn less – than the “not.” We included controls for age and a host of other factors, so our results are not due to the fact that that younger women are simultaneously more junior and more likely to be rated hot.

Other research has found that women who are more demanding in negotiations are rated as less attractive. Perhaps the personality traits that prompt a woman to negotiate a higher salary just aren’t seen as sexy in the classroom.

For men, however, we found a startlingly high pay-off to hotness. True, not many male professors are rated as hot, but those that are, earn much more. Controlling for age, rank, university, and research productivity, hot male economics professors are almost 20 per cent more likely to be earning more than $100,000 a year. Conditional upon earning more than $100,000 a year, being hot increases a male professor’s predicted salary by more than $3,000.

We do not know exactly why hot male professors earn more. One possibility is hot men are those who are more assertive, and this leads to successful salary negotiations.

Another possible explanation comes from the comments students write on ratemyprofessors.com. “I absolutely loved Professor ____. He’s one of the busiest people in the Economics department and yet he never sees it as an inconvenience to do what he can to help,” or he’s a “a semi-retired superman.”

Perhaps hot professors earn more because charisma, likeability, and good organizational skills are rewarded in the labour market.

So can I just say it? Can I? What does all of this have to say about poorly paid faculty off the tenure-track? Are the majority of adjuncts lacking in, well, hotness? Or, within the ranks of faculty off the tenure-track, does the same rule apply? Is that good looking babe who teaches Intro. Comp. earning a few hundred per course more than you just because she looks great in a tight skirt and stiletto heels? Either way, it appears as though if you want that job on the tenure-track, and a fatter paycheck than the guy in the office next to yours, you’d better start going to the gym, get a better haircut, and pay much closer attention to how you dress and look.

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