Deep machine learning study finds that body shape is associated with income

August 18, 2021


Written by Eric W. Dolan in Social Psychology

Body Shape and Income Article

A new study published in PLOS One has found a relationship between a person’s body shape and their family income. The findings provide more evidence for the “beauty premium” — a phenomenon in which people who are physically attractive tend to earn more than their less attractive counterparts.

Researchers have consistently found evidence for the beauty premium. But Suyong Song, an associate professor at The University of Iowa, and his colleagues observed that the measurements used to gauge physical appearance suffered some important limitations.

“I have been curious of whether or not there is physical attractiveness premium in labor market outcomes. One of the challenges is how researchers overcome reporting errors in body measures such as height or weight, as most previous studies often defined physical appearance from subjective opinions based on surveys,” Song explained.

“The other challenge is how to define body shapes from these body measures, as these measures are too simple to provide a complete description of body shapes. In this study, collaborated with one of my coauthors (Stephen Baek at University of Virginia), we use novel data which contains three-dimensional whole-body scans. Using a state-of-the art machine learning technique, called graphical autoencoder, we addressed these concerns.”

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