Hamermesh on The Daily Show: Ugly People

Freakonomics contributor Dan Hamermesh was featured on The Daily Show last night, in a piece about ugly people. Hamermesh has done extensive research on the economic disadvantages of being unattractive. His most recent book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, shows how all kinds of economic benefits flow toward physical beauty — from higher salaries, to better loan rates, to attractive, educated spouses. We did a Q&A with him here.

In this segment, Hamermesh and Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones have some fun discussing whether ugly Americans should be given special legal protection.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Ugly People
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook


Hamermesh was hilarious (and a good sport), although he should be corrected on one bit of nomenclature. It's "douchebaggery," not "douchebagness."

David Clayton

Bravo, professor. Not everybody can take a joke. It would have been nice for them to throw in some sort of qualifier, that this is simply an interesting question rather than your life's obsession or something.

In case word filters back to New York, the three-fifths line had me actually laughing out loud.


I hope the Ham was kidding about social support for ugly people... Stupidity cannot be helped either, maybe we should force companies not to discriminate based on intelligence.


There are, in fact, many social supports for those at such low percentiles of intellect as the Professor suggests need some legal protection for ugliness.

We're not talking 1 on the 1-5 scale, we're talking maybe the bottom 0.3 out of 5.


On the same note this kind of thinking actually applies in the NFL as well. So even being a super talented athlete at the high end of the pay scale, it still is better to be a super talented attractive athlete.


Hasn't hurt David Beckham's income either.


It was one of the best pieces I've seen on The Daily Show in a while. He was fantastic!


how about offering free plastic surgery, dental work, and the like?

Tony Collins

I have a dim recollection reading abouto a plastic surgery programme aimed at rehabilitating prisoners whose ugliness got them into violent situations.

And a less popular search engine found it here:


robin marlowe

I saw the humor. The question is- what was funny? At what point, does `ugly' for one become beautiful for another. My mom lived with arthritus for 46 years. Her hands became deformed and she was all the way bent over. The curvature of her spine essentially killed her. But in no way, shape or form would I ever think of my mom as ugly. I never saw her that way and never will. She lived in pain, but found a way to rise above it (by how she lived) and was perhaps the happiest and most beautiful person I have ever known. I just find this discussion and that tape offensive.


You're right. If we don't talk about a phenomenon, that means it isn't real. /s

Facts aren't offensive. He's not stating or researching how looks should effect one's life, he's analyzing how it DOES. Not talking about it doesn't change reality.

marlowe here

yes, yes. I know of my own sensitivity when it comes to certain things. There's the rub.


Sociologist Dan Ariely has a reallllly interesting take on looks, relationships, and identity, even invoking "The Fox and the Grapes" from Aesop's Fables to demonstrate how our attitudes conform to the limits we were dealt in the genetic lottery.


Mike B

I am surprised that he would actually advocate for ADA style protections for the ugly. Such a law would be nearly unenforceable (beauty is in the eye remember) and would have the very real possibility of having ADA style unintended consequences of making employers even less likely to hire the unattractive people due to fear of lawsuits if that person is later fired or passed over for promotions etc.


natural selection is just weeding out the ugly genes. where's the debate?


Sure ugly men will rarely if ever get a chance to reproduce. The problem is that ugly women always manage to breed whenever they want, because men are hornier and generally have lower standards. This ensures that there will always be ugly people for a long time to come.

Brett Bond

What is your evidence for direction of causation? The association of ugliness with lesser pay is certainly interesting but it would be good to mention the possibility that lesser pay makes you uglier. If you get hit in the face a lot, work deeper in the coal mine, get depressed or stressed a lot, can your looks decline? Could doing worse at your job lead not only to worse pay but worse looks? I'd like to hear an episode address this directionality of causation problem in general and also the challenges to economics as a science since there is no real control group.