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Dating and Desirability Part Two: A More Exhaustive Study

In a Recent blog on Dating and Desirability, I noted a number of patterns that had been observed in one brief study that related to the impact of income and physical attractivemness on dating and mate selection. Some respondents noted – and I noted as well – that the population in that study was potentially skewed by virtue of the fact that the entire study population was comprised of students at Columbia University. I recently came across another study, the results of which were published in the American Economic Review in 2010, which is much more thorough, much more academically rigorous, and is based on a much larger sample. It appears to have yielded very similar results. (See American Economic Review 2010, 100:1, pages 130–163 )


Here, paraphrased slightly, are the essential elements of their findings:

  1. Subjects prefer a partner whose age is similar to their own.
  2. Women who are single try to avoid divorced men, while divorced women have a preference for a partner who is also divorced.
  3. Single men avoid divorced women, and divorced men have no particular preference to date a divorced woman.
  4. Both men and women who have children prefer a partner who also has children. Potential partners with children, however, are much less desirable to both men and women who themselves do not have children.
  5. Women seeking a long-term relationship prefer a partner who indicates that he is also seeking a long-term relationship, but no such preference is apparent for men.
  6. Looks and physique are important determinants of preferences for both men and women. The difference is only slight between men and women.
  7. Men typically avoid tall women, while women have a preference for tall men.
  8. Men have a strong distaste for women with a large Body Mass Index, (heavier women) while women tend to prefer heavier men.
  9. Women place about twice as much weight on income as men do.
  10. Both men and women want to meet a partner with a similar education level. Women have an overall strong preference for an educated partner, but also have a relatively small tendency to avoid men who are more educated than themselves.
  11. Men generally shy away from educated women.
  12. Both men and women have a preference for a partner of their own ethnicity.
  13. Both men and women have a preference for a partner of the same religion.

As I mentioned earlier, this study is pretty thorough, and it appears to me to be completely sound from an academic perspective; I invite the reader to click the hyperlink and take a look. I think most of these findings are pretty intuitive, and the rest made pretty good sense to me when I reflected on them. Do you find any of them surprising?


What do you think?

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