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Do Ugly People Deserve Legal Protection? Economics Prof Offers Reasons for ADA Extension

Posted Aug 29, 2011 8:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An economics professor is making the case for legal protections against looks-challenged people.

Writing an op-ed for the New York Times, University of Texas professor Daniel Hamermesh cites findings that good-looking people make more money, find higher-earning spouses, and get better mortgage deals. One study shows American workers assessed as being in the bottom seventh in terms of looks earn about $230,000 less in a lifetime than similar workers in the top third of looks.

Hamermesh offers a solution: Protect ugliness with small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could get help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly,” he suggests.

How would legal decision-makers determine ugliness? It’s not that difficult, Hamermesh says. “For purposes of administering a law, we surely could agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population.”

Hamermesh goes on to cite a counterargument: Expanding rights to help another protected group would be a further drain on government resources, possibly reducing protections for other groups.

“You might reasonably disagree and argue for protecting all deserving groups,” Hamermesh says. “Either way, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the United States heading toward this new legal frontier.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Law Prof Decries ‘Beauty Bias’ and Killer Shoes, Suggests Legal Remedies for the Former”

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