Dear Economist: Should I tell my boyfriend to stop being vain?

Dear Economist,

My boyfriend spends a lot of time in front of the mirror, prettying himself up. I am pleased to have a well-groomed man in my life but it is a bit unnerving. Should I get him to stop?

PL, Warwick

Dear PL,

Your boyfriend’s disturbing personal-grooming habit offers you financial as well as aesthetic benefits. Economists have known for some time that better-looking people are paid more. This is probably due to a combination of discrimination against the ugly, the fact that some beautiful people have jobs where beauty is an obvious advantage, and the likelihood that better-looking people are more confident.

More recently, economists have discovered evidence that endogenous beauty (make-up, hair-styling) is as important as exogenous beauty (having Bond girl Eva Green’s eyes).

Economists Daniel Hamermesh, Xin Meng and Junsen Zhang have found that spending money on clothes and make-up slightly raises the earnings of Shanghai workers. More recently Jayoti Das and Stephen DeLoach, of Elon University’s economics department, have shown that time spent on grooming substantially improves wages, especially for men.

They estimate that each extra 10 minutes a man spends in front of the mirror will raise his wages by 6 per cent. (Women would have to spend two or three hours to get the same effect.) So if you prefer your boyfriend to be rich, don’t stand between him and his mirror.

I do not know why you’re complaining. Perhaps you’re afraid that your boyfriend is becoming too attractive to rivals. If so, dump him and find yourself someone desperate. An economist, perhaps?

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.