Do your teenagers spend a lot of time primping in front of the mirror in an attempt to look their best? If so, rejoice: They may be hogging the bathroom, but the results are well worth it. According to newly published research, well-groomed high school students have higher grade point averages than their slovenly classmates.
In a new study published in the journal Labour Economics, a team led by sociologist Michael T. French of the University of Miami examined the impact of physical attractiveness, personality and grooming on high schoolers' cumulative GPA. They used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a massive undertaking which included in-home interviews with 20,745 adolescents from 80 American high schools and 52 middle schools. The interviewers rated each student’s physical attractiveness, personality attractiveness and grooming on a 1-to-5 scale.
The researchers discovered "a statistically significant grade premium for well-groomed male and female students," as well as "an even larger penalty" for poorly groomed males.
"The grade premiums and penalties generated for grooming for male students are larger than those for female students," they report. On the other hand, "Female students with pleasant personalities also receive a grade premium."
The scholars provide two possible explanations for this phenomenon. "Female students who appear personable to the (study's) interviewers and who are well-groomed may be choosing to conform to adult expectations," they note. "As part of this effort, they may also be investing more time in schoolwork instead of socializing. ... The same type of mechanism can help explain the results for male students."
They add that "teacher bias in favor of or against certain types of students" may also help explain these findings. While they were "not able to conclusively determine" whether such prejudice is a significant factor, it's easy to imagine teachers who —consciously or unconsciously — look more favorably at the kid with polished shoes than the one with greasy hair.
Either way, the researchers add, "We find that personal appearance matters at a relatively young age," noting that grade point average is a key factor in getting into a good college. So some solid advice for high school students might be to hit the books —and then hit the showers. And don't forget to mousse.
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