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Studies consistently show that attractive people get higher pay and more job opportunities than the folks who are less attractive. In economic terms, that means an hour in the gym is equivalent to some number of minutes of education. And yet we tend to perceive people who take classes as dedicated contributors to the world's economic engine whereas people who exercise every day seem a tad selfish. Maybe we need to quantify the economic benefits of an hour of education versus an hour of exercise so we know how to get the best bang for the buck.

Healthy people generally have more energy, fewer health problems, less stress, better attitudes, and more influence over people. How much is all of that goodness worth? Would you be better off economically if you exercised daily or if you had a pot belly and a second degree?

Let's say you live in a parallel universe and you're in charge of hiring for your business. Two men apply for the job. As is the custom in this imaginary universe, the applicants submit their job histories and educational backgrounds along with pictures of their torsos. That's all you know about the candidates. They don't even interview in person.

How much more would you be willing to pay the applicant on the right? Let's say the average salary is $100K per year and both applicants are equally good at negotiating for salary. How much more per year would you be willing to pay the fitter applicant, all other things being equal?

 

[Update: Several of you observed that the original image of the fit person (the one in the middle now) is too scrawny. I added a third image that is more of a gym body (who wears pants correctly) than an under-eater. Now which of the three do you hire, all else being equal?]

The second question is just for the ladies and the men who prefer men. This time the question is how much extra income would the man on the left need to earn to before you found him as attractive (for marriage) as the man on the right. Assume everything else about the two men is equal: same senses of humor, personalities, etc. The only differences are income and fitness. Give me an annual income estimate that makes the two men equivalent from a mating perspective. Assume the man on the right (the fitter one) earns $80K per year. How much would the less-fit man on the left need to earn to be equal marriage material?

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My new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, will be released October 22nd but you can preorder on Amazon.

 
 
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Oct 7, 2013
Why do I have the feeling that the unfit guy in the photos IRL makes more per year than the fit guy?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
Since I'm not driven by sex, I don't have enough data to choose between the two on offer. Which one has a nicer face, better hair, is more generous, loves cats, smells good, and doesn't eat, yawn, or belch noisily? If absolutely everything in their personalities and looks outside of the section shown are identical, then I don't care which one I end up with, they're functionally equivalent. If the spread of other criteria is all over the map, then the torso has nothing to do with final attractiveness quotient. If I did have a sex drive I suspect my answer would be pretty much the same because I'd still have more respect for myself than I do for current societal standards of conformity.
 
 
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
An interesting question.

But, as has been pointed out, your photos offer a poor dichotomy. I'd call either of them relatively healthy, and potentially attractive. Waxing and red lighting could actually be a bit much, pushing the man on the right into "narcissist" territory. But that's not the argument you're looking for.

A better example would be someone with a beer gut, perhaps with lots of body hair, compared to someone with either a sculpted body or even a more normal, fit body.
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
@delius1967 @JoetheWebmaster

Sorry, most of that was personal experience from one job based on several “hard-charging-alpha“ personalities that made a difficult job harder by way of their need to appear prominent when things were going well, and hucking you under the bus when it wasn't. They were not that good at their jobs, and would over-play the attractive-person angle (one was a woman).

Team play with these types meant either sharing the glory or taking the heat alone. Half the job was defending yourself from these jokers, and Scott is right, the PHB’s tend to favor the jokers perspective if they fit a physical profile. I would know, being a “fit” type myself, and recognize who is a *rival* for that advantage. Sounds like fitness is a priority to Joe – work it if you got it, girlfriend!

Promoting talented rivals seemed best done when you knew you were leaving, but competent worker-bees are better if you intend to stick around for some time. Just playing good poker....
 
 
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
Honestly, I don't see a lot of difference in the two photos other than lighting. But, in analyzing the ratings of the comments, there appears to be a big difference that makes me think that more unfit/unattractive people than fit/attractive people rate comments on this blog. Maybe that's not a big surprize for any blog.

DMD
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
The person on the left has had his picture taken by someone who, for whatever reason, found him interesting enough to photograph; just a regular guy on the beach.

The person on the right has taken this photo of himself in front of a mirror; a behavior worthy of Anthony Weiner of New York.

Who would I hire? Certainly not the egotist.
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
@Raymee (unfit guy with inferiority complex operating under the haze of donut glaze),

1.The fit guy is a narcissist who will look out for himself at the expense of his employer.
What do you mean? Is he going to the gym on company time?

2.He believes appearances are more important than talent.
Excluding vapid females, a person that has the motivation to remain fit has the motivation to excel at their chosen skill way beyond the average.

3.He has a generally superficial person regarding integrity.
Unfit people usually have a lackadaisical person regarding integrity.

4.He will eventually trade in his spouse for a younger model (sorry ladies)
Hmm, hard to argue this one

5.He has a STD (an equalizing rumor I will spread to balance the blank checks people write him)
Maybe try not being lazy and you won't have to hate so hard
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
Raymee:
[ 1.The fit guy is a narcissist who will look out for himself at the expense of his employer.
...
In general, only hire strong worker-bees and never hire a potential rival ]

I'm curious as to why you would say the first one, instead of something like: "The fit guy is someone with a higher level of personal discipline, something that is incredibly important in any job".

Your last comment, though, leaves me flabbergasted. As much as possible, you should ALWAYS hire "potential rivals", if by that you mean someone who could possibly do your job in the future. My first rule of management is: surround yourself with people who are more capable than you are. Why would you deliberately hire someone of less talent? Maybe it is a function of the industry I'm in (computer software), but in my experience, putting yourself out of a job through increased efficiency makes you more valuable, not less.
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
It seems like you are conflating attractivenss and fitness. Attractivenss is highly dependent on facial (and body) symmetry - which cannot be changed by going to the gym. A plastic surgeon can help quite a bit. (And in China, can cost you a lawsuit: http://www.worldcrunch.com/default/plastic-surgery-nation-chinese-man-sues-wife-for-being-ugly-wins/china-plastic-surgery-advertisement-verdict/c0s10072/ )

I wonder if there's anything that tells how much of attractiveness is being fit vs being beautiful. Then you can decide if plastic surgery or the gym (or both) makes good economical sense.
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
Not a big diff between the two except hair, tan and lighting. I would say that is "ok" shape not "good" shape. They both need to hit the weight bench.
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
As a rule, we do not interview shirtless individuals.
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
I wonder if there is a correlation / cause & effect issue here? Does healthy equal successful, or are the things that drive us to be healthy also useful in the world of work? If you took the man that isn't healthy (because he isn't driven to be) and used a machine to improve his body, does his success at work actually change, if his underlying motivations remain the same?
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 7, 2013
Not enough inputs.

But, I'd think that:

1.The fit guy is a narcissist who will look out for himself at the expense of his employer.
2.He believes appearances are more important than talent.
3.He has a generally superficial person regarding integrity.
4.He will eventually trade in his spouse for a younger model (sorry ladies)
5.He has a STD (an equalizing rumor I will spread to balance the blank checks people write him)

1.The less fit guy has to prove more with actual talent - due to being unattractive.
2.He needs approval from his employer more thus a better employee - due to being unattractive.
3.Will cling to any reasonably attractive woman who is kind to him - due to being unattractive.
4.Would never threaten my higher position at the company - due to being unattractive.

In general, only hire strong worker-bees and never hire a potential rival.

 
 
Oct 7, 2013
[And yet we tend to perceive people who take classes as dedicated contributors to the world's economic engine whereas people who exercise every day seem a tad selfish. Maybe we need to quantify the economic benefits of an hour of education versus an hour of exercise so we know how to get the best bang for the buck.]

Fair question, one that should be looked at seriously, but we should clean it up a bit first. Some of what you identify as an economic benefit of good fitness only works on a relative basis and, therefore, wouldnt add to the GNP if tried on a mass scale. Or, to put it another way, if EVERYONE is fitter and more attractive all it will mean from a management, advertising, etc. perspective is that folks will need to be fitter and more attractive to be perceived as such. The overall benefit to these parts of the economy will be negligible.
 
 
Oct 7, 2013
"Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."

Julius Caesar, Act I Scene 2
 
 
 
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