MICHAEL GIBSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Do ‘Mean Girls’ get a boost in school? High school students who were rated more attractive than average tended to have better grades than their peers, researchers found.
Being hot in high school may be the equivalent of extra credit.
High school boys and girls considered more attractive than the bulk of their classmates had higher GPAs on average, University of Illinois-Chicago researchers found.
The researchers looked at data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which followed nearly 9,000 high school students of various ages beginning in 1994-95 into some of the students’ 20s and 30s. The interviewers who conducted the survey had rated students’ attractiveness.
A research team led by Rachel Gordon compared the attractiveness scores to GPA data and found “the attractive do have a GPA advantage (over) the average,” Gordon told USA Today.
Students rated the most attractive didn’t have the highest grades; rather, “standing out from the crowd” with above-average looks seemed to confer the advantage, researchers found.
Nor did unattractive students necessarily perform worse in school – though the study notes that those “on the ugly side of looks” tend to be more depressed and have fewer friends.
Being good-looking lends teens “psychosocial resources” that help them achieve academically, researchers argue.
But attractive students have their own rocky adolescent roads to navigate: They are more likely to date and have sexual partners in high school, as well as drink, which could negatively impact their grades in college, Gordon said.
Though researchers controlled for a range of factors including age, gender, race/ethnicity, parents’ marital status and education levels, and what courses the students chose, the study couldn’t measure whether and how much teachers are biased towards better-looking students.
Still, Gordon told USA Today, the findings “may be able to help teachers and students get past the way looks affect those initial impressions.”
Study results are to be published online Friday in a peer-reviewed book, Physical Attractiveness and the Accumulation of Social and Human Capital in Adolescence and Young Adulthood.