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Should ugly people get legal protection? One economist makes the case Add to ...

As anyone born with a misshapen face or serious deformity knows, ugly ducklings don’t always turn into swans.

But those who lose the genetic lottery shouldn’t have to lose in life, economist Daniel Hamermesh argues in the New York Times.

According to Dr. Hamermesh, it’s time to provide legal protections to the unattractive – similar to those for racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and people with disabilities.

Affirmative action for the ugly could be the next “legal frontier,” he writes.

Dr. Hamermesh makes his case by citing a study showing that American workers who ranked at the bottom of an attractiveness scale, as assessed by randomly chosen observers, earned 10 to 15 percent less a year than workers with similar skills but much better looks – a lifetime difference, typically, of about $230,000.

What’s more, good-looking people are more likely to be employed, get loans with better terms and have attractive and highly educated spouses, he writes in his new book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.

Society is complacent about discrimination based on looks, Dr. Hamermesh says.

“It’s a matter of simple prejudice,” he writes. “Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors.”

But no one ever said life was fair, notes Ellen Meade at AmericanThinker.com. By Dr. Hamermesh’s logic, she writes, ugly people could take legal action against film companies when they don’t land movie roles.

“We can’t have people suing because they're not as smart, skilled or attractive as someone else.”

Readers of the legal blog ABAJournal.com were similarly derisive.

As a commenter by the name of LTE put it: “Most people are ugly, as Seinfeld said in one episode (“only 5 per cent of the population is dating material”). Aren’t anti-discrimination laws intended to protect minority groups?”

Critics might argue that ugly people can always opt for cosmetic surgery. But according to Dr. Hamermesh, “such refinements make only small differences in our beauty.”

And that’s assuming the ugly – and economically disadvantaged – can afford it.

Do unattractive men and women deserve legal protection? Have you been discriminated against because of your looks?

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Follow on Twitter: @AdrianaBarton


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