Researchers from the University of Miami Health Economics Research Group, have said that non-cognitive traits play an important role in the assignment of grades in high school.
The study showed that physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming are good predictors of grades in high school and may indicate future success in college and labour markets.
For a long time economists have wondered if "beauty premiums" and "plainness penalties" in the labour market come from an accumulation of differences in attention and rewards received from teachers throughout the school years.
The study examines the effect of three personal characteristics- physical attractiveness, personality and grooming-on students' grade point averages (GPA) in high school.
Michael T. French, professor of health economics in the UM College of Arts and Sciences and one of the authors of the study, said that they wanted to know which aspects of these non-cognitive personal traits are more strongly linked to academic achievement.
"Several studies in the literature have found that physical attractiveness is significantly related to labour market earnings for men and women. Thus, we were somewhat surprised to find that physical attractiveness was not the most important non-cognitive predictor of grades. Instead grooming and personality were stronger predictors of academic success in high school for boys and girls, respectively," said French.
By looking at GPA as a function of a long list of individual, familial, school, and environmental characteristics that are likely to affect academic performance, the researchers were able to make several significant observations.
They found that physical attractiveness has a positive effect on GPA for both genders, but only when considered alone.
Also, they observed that when physical attractiveness is considered along with grooming and personality, the positive effect of physical attractiveness on high school GPA turns negative for both genders.
For male students, grooming was found to deliver the biggest overall effect on GPA, and in female students, personality is positively related to GPA.
Researchers noticed that physical appearance could be a way for adolescents to either rebel or accept adult's standards.
However, whether the student is a "rebel" or a "conformist" does not have a significant independent effect on GPA.
The findings suggested that some degree of teacher bias is present in favour of, or against certain types of students.
All else equal, Hispanics and African Americans have lower GPAs than whites and girls have higher GPAs than males.
Students living with a mother who attended college, those that live in a two-parent household and those attending a small school have higher GPAs than those in different circumstances.
Also, receiving public assistance is negatively associated with GPA.
The researchers concluded that students may be able to "trade-off" different personal characteristics to improve academic achievement and that this trend may affect future success in college, the labour market and family formation.
The study will be published in the next issue of Labour Economics. (ANI)