What appears to be an exchange of beauty for socioeconomic status is often actually not an exchange, McClintock wrote, but a series of matched virtues. Economically successful women partner with economically successful men, and physically attractive women partner with physically attractive men.
“Sometimes you hear that really nice guys get hot girls,” McClintock told me, “[but] I found that really nice guys get really nice girls. [Being nice] is not really buying you any currency in the attractiveness realm. If the guys are hot, too, then sure, they can get a hot girl.”
Because people of of high socioeconomic status are, on average, rated as more physically attractive than people of lower status, many correlations between one partner’s appearance and the other partner’s status are spurious and misconstrued.
“Women spend a lot more time trying to look good than men do,” McClintock said, “That creates a lot of mess in this data. If you don’t take that into account then you actually see there’s a lot of these guys who are partnered with women who are better looking than them, which is just because, on average, women are better looking. Men are partnering ‘up’ in attractiveness. And men earn more than women, we’ve got that 70-percent wage gap, so women marry up in income. You’ve got to take these things into account before concluding that women are trading beauty for money.”
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