Pulchronomics: The study of the economics of physical attractiveness.
I took this at first to mean that pulchronomics investigates the financial aspects of the cosmetics industry, but it's not quite that. It's more about how much you might personally profit from being good-looking. The word was, I believe, coined by the economist Daniel Hamermesh, who has published a book on the subject, 'Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful' (Princeton University Press), no doubt in a well-justified exercise in diversification. I read up about it in a rather shorter article by Abigail Tucker, in the Smithsonian Magazine (November 2012), 'How Much is Being Attractive Worth?' She writes, 'Beautiful People are indeed happier, a new study says, but not always for the same reasons. For handsome men, the extra kicks are more likely to come from economic benefits, like increased wages, while women are more apt to find joy just looking in the mirror. "Women feel that beauty is inherently important," says Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas at Austin labor economist and the study's lead author. "They just feel bad if they're ugly." '(That explains my problems, then.) He backs this up with a lot of statistics and 'facts' derived from comparing the incomes of great-looking men and women versus unfortunates (though how and by whom these value judgements are made, I have no idea, not actually having read the book). For instance, below-average looking men earn 17% less than hunks, while similar females earn 12% less than babes. Appparently attractive people are more likely to be hired in a recession (or any time, I would have thought). And so on.
Amongst the delicious nuggets that Ms Tucker offers in her article is the figure of $845 million as the sum spent by Americans on facelifts in 2010 alone. It comes as a relief, therefore, that British women only spend around £600 per year on cosmetics. (Really? Surely that's just the cost of my annual supply of toothpaste?) Eventually, she writes, Mr. Hamermesh comes to the conclusion, both obvious and rather unhelpful, that there isn't much we can do to improve our looks. 'There are even studies suggesting that for every dollar spent on cosmetic products, only 4 cents returns as salary, making lipstick a truly abysmal investment.' That's my retirement portfolio down the drain, more's the pity.