5 Surprising Things That Could Lower Your Salary

businessman using tablet
Source: iStock

We all want to be paid what we’re worth. Unfortunately, factors beyond our control can limit what we earn. People have long suspected that conventionally attractive people have a leg up in the job market, and studies show that’s indeed the case, even in jobs where being good-looking seems irrelevant.

“You would think you could find examples of occupations where being unattractive wouldn’t hurt you at all,” Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professors who has studied the role of beauty in the labor market, told the Wall Street Journal. “But in every one I have looked at, being better looking helps you.”

Whether you’re a news anchor or a college professor, being blessed with a handsome face seems to translate into better opportunities and higher pay. Even white-collar criminals are more successful if they’re better looking, according to Hamermesh. But good looks aren’t the only out-of-your-control factor that can affect your salary. Everything from the hand you write with to the length of your name plays a role in how much you earn.

Here are five weird things that could lower your salary.

1. Being left-handed

Men in the United States who write with their left hand earn an average of $2,500 less each year than their right-handed counterparts, according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The 9% earnings gap might have to do with different ways that the brains of left-handed people work. Left-hand dominant people tend to have more behavioral issues, greater incidence of learning disabilities, and are more likely to work in jobs that require manual rather than cognitive skill, according to the study, all of which may contribute to lower earnings.

“If the structure of lefties’ brains affects the accumulation of skills, this may be reflected in labor market outcomes and measures of productivity,” wrote Joshua Goodman, the study’s author and a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

2. Being short

Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Short men are already at a disadvantage when it comes to romantic relationships – nearly 50% of women say they prefer to date taller men. But they also lose out when it comes to salary.

Statistics suggest that your co-worker who’s an inch taller than you is making $789 more per year. A guy who’s 6 feet tall versus 5 feet, 5 inches could earn $166,000 more over the course of a 30-year career, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The height-and-income connection was greatest for those who worked in sales and management, researchers found.

3. Not drinking

The office happy hour is a treasured tradition, and not partaking in a pint with your coworkers could set you back at the office. Men who drink earn 21% more than non-drinkers, a study published in the Journal of Labor Research found. The social aspect of drinking seems to be especially important, perhaps because those who are comfortable chatting over cocktails may develop more business connections or stronger relationships with their coworkers.

4. Having a long first name

Source: iStock

If your name is Christopher or William, you might want to go by Chris or Bill on your resume. Using salary data it gathered on its 6 million members, career website The Ladders looked at 24 pairs of first names (like Stephen and Steve or Phillip and Philip) and found that people with the shorter version made more money. Overall, people with a four- or five-letter first name earned significantly more than those with names that were eight or nine letters long, with every additional character coming with a $3,600 reduction in annual salary.

5. Being super-skinny

Your weight could be affecting your paycheck, though perhaps not in the way you might expect. Being overweight is a serious career liability for women, but for men, it’s being perceived as too skinny that’s the problem. Men who weighed 25 pounds less than the average guy earned $8,437 less per year, a study by researchers at the University of Florida and London Business School found. Men also paid a higher price, salary-wise, for being skinny than for being overweight, they found.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS
Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.