Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Tiger Woods Phenomenon: How We Pick Our Mates

Originally posted in the WSJ Real Times Economics by Justin Lahart:

Call it the Tiger Woods phenomenon. New research weighs in on how men and women pick their mates.

Tiger Woods and his wife Elin in happier times. (Getty Images)

There’s an adage that says if economics research is surprising, it’s probably wrong and if it’s right, it’s probably not surprising. We’ll leave it to you to figure out where what category “ Fatter Attraction: Anthropometric and Socioeconomic Characteristics in the Marriage Market,” by economists Pierre-AndrĂ© Chiappori, Sonia Oreffice and Climent Quintana-Domeque, falls into. Here’s the abstract:

We construct a matching model on the marriage market along more than one characteristic, where individuals have preferences over physical attractiveness (proxied by anthropometric characteristics) and market and household productivity of potential mates (proxied by socioeconomic characteristics), with a certain degree of substitutability between them. Men and women assess each other through an index combining these various attributes, so the matching is one-dimensional. We estimate the trade-offs among these characteristics using data from the PSID and the ECHP, finding evidence of compensation between anthropometric and socioeconomic characteristics. An additional unit of husband’s (wife’s) BMI can be compensated by a 0.3%-increase (0.15%-increase) in husband’s (wife’s) average (predicted) wage. Interestingly, these findings suggest that female physical attractiveness plays a larger role in men’s assessment of a woman than male physical attractiveness does for women.

Translation: Women consider a fat wallet a better compensation for a fat belly than men do.

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