The Ugly Face of Crime

“I’m too ugly to get a job.”
—Daniel Gallagher, a Miami bank robber, after police captured him in 2003

Here’s a weird little article about a study that tracked 15,000 teenagers for four years, analyzing grades, income, and brushes with the law. The interviewers also rated the kids on their attractiveness, and when the numbers were crunched, the study found a correlation between being ugly and committing crimes.

The authors don’t miss the obvious point, though: “Other studies have shown that unattractive men and women are less likely to be hired, and that they earn less money, than the better-looking. Such inferior circumstances may steer some to crime, Mocan and Tekin suggest.”

Notice that the correlation wasn’t huge, but it was there. To state the obvious: not everyone who was rated unattractive was a crim, and a lot of the pretty kids had broken the law. But being ugly clearly leads to social stress, which can push human beings closer to anti-socal behavior. (Economic stress does, too. When unemployment goes up in a group, crime and divorce almost always go up.) This doesn’t excuse any individual’s behavior, but it does make this point:

There really is a social cost to the way we think about beauty, and to the way we treat each other based on looks.

It makes me feel like the Uglies universe really is a possibility. Maybe one day some society really will decide to get rid of the beauty problem once and for all.

(But in the meantime, it’s nice to know that TV and movies never lie.)

14 thoughts on “The Ugly Face of Crime

  1. It may be true, but i doubt Gallagher’s explaination held up in court…

    (I felt sad that there were no comments, and decided to correct the matter.)

  2. Hmmm… isn’t it strange how something that should be as superficial as appearance plays a huge role in all parts of society…?

  3. Hmm, Yea I thought that The uglies society is possible. It’s strange but appearance is alot of things to human emotion and behavior.
    I remember in high school band they said that in heat metal expands and cold metal contracts. Making the sound different. But when metal expands it not only expands outward but in making the instrument sound sharper, which is tighter i guess.. and when it’s cold the metal contracts.. like rings on your finger.. on cold days it’s looser and on hot summer days it’s tigher and harder to get off. Soo I’ve been thinking about the Pretties book… Did you intentionally do that because you knew people would get confused about the expanding out thingy or did you forget about it expanding out and in? AHHH ok i guess i made everything abit too confusing but it.. didn’t make sense to me in the book… unless the heat made the metal all soft to take off…

  4. I always wonder though in all this “attractive vs. unattractive” stuff, where does personal preference come in? We’re fed “attractive” faces by the media all the time, and certainly things like clear skin and white teeth are probably attractive to most cultures (except the ones that lacquer their teeth black or do ritual scarring, I guess), but just because we’re told over and over that someone like Jessica Simpson is beautiful doesn’t mean we have to believe it.

    I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of meeting someone “not pretty” who became wonderfully pretty because they had a powerful personality, and the reverse, someone “pretty” who became someone we don’t want to look at.

  5. well mabye it is more of a subconscient thing, like, we dont realize that we are doing it untill its pointed out to us. or mabye people use that as an excuse to do it on purpose. its all very confusing.

  6. I’ve found that once I get to know a person, I don’t see what they look like so much. When I first meet somebody, physical appearance is all that I have to remember them by, so when it comes to first impressions, looks definitely play a role. But after I know someone, it’s only every now and then that I really pay attention to what they look like. Obviously I notice little things, like new clothes or makeup, but when I look at someone’s face, I see the person, not the face. If that makes sense. 🙂 I think it’s a matter of how close you are to someone and how you feel about them.

  7. Let me just say that calling someone ugly is awful. Just because they aren’t attractive on the outside doesn’t mean that they’re ugly. Now if they have an ugly personality to boot, then you can call them ugly. ONLY then can you call them ugly.
    And no, I’m not physically unattractive. I think.

  8. Word, Scott,

    It’s so true…. I’ve been put into a few work-for-the-dole projects in my time, and with exceptions of course, you don’t see many pretty young things amongst the long-term unemployed (I think especially so for women, although my evidence there is only first hand and anecdotal)…

    I just finished reading Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan, wherein humanity finally gets rid of inequality by forcing anyone with any kind of natural gift to have a handicap… strong people carry round weights, pretty people dress unattractively and wear concealing clothing etc…

    Considering our society’s general attitude to (at least overt) prejudice, it’s funny that physical attractiveness is exempt… nobody feels that it’s wrong to like somebody more because of the way they look… which to some extent is just as uncontrollable as race or gender…

  9. i think that everyone is obesessed with how they look. I mean, you see in like people magazine that what is Tally’s world is true.All the ugly people look at the pretties and wish they were pretty, and the pretty people ignore the ugly people. It’s a little scary how close our world is to the book world. Who’s to say it’s different?

  10. I loved the book uglies and pretties, but I got my friend into the books and she wants tally ro stay a pretty forever! she knows about the brain lesions and how the specials control your life and everything

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