A Columbia University economics professor is studying the effect of extra weight on men and women’s potential in ‘the marriage market.’ Pierre-Andre Chiappori, whose working paper is actually titled ‘Fatter Attraction: Anthropometric and Socioeconomic Matching on the Marriage Market,’ says his research has found hot women are more likely to forgive extra pounds on men who are rich (duh?). Men are more likely to be with higher-BMI women when those women are more highly-educated.
The latter is a little surprising, no? According to Chiappori, an additional year of education ‘may compensate up to three BMI units” in women. A 10% increase in a man’s BMI can be compensated for by a higher wage of around 3%. The never-subtle New York Post has titled their story on Chiappori’s research ‘Gals dig fat wallet;’ they note:
A 6-foot-tall man who weighs 180 pounds — just about the perfect BMI — and earns an annual salary of $100,000, for instance, would have to get a $2,000 raise if he packed on about 20 pounds and didn’t want to downgrade the level of women he could date.
To study these ‘marital tradeoffs in the United States,’ Chiappori and his team used data on thousands of married men and women from 1999-2007. [I wonder if this data would be different post economic downturn?] The wives were between ages 20 and 50; the couples primarily white, and data on couples with ‘extreme weights (less than 70 or more than 400 pounds) was discarded. The researchers use education level rather than income data in wives because a significant portion did not work. For men, income was used to ‘proxy a man’s socio-economic status.’ BMI was used as the ‘main proxy for non-economic (physical) attractiveness.’
That’s a lot of proxies that come with a lot of assumptions attached. To be fair, Chiappori knows that: “Our approach clearly relies on specific and strong assumptions,” he writes. At least the study is based on qualitative data, as opposed to some of the nebulous ev-pscyh babble that accompanies a lot of marriageability or attraction studies.
One inadvertently funny sentence from the paper notes:
“Interestingly, male physical attractiveness matters as well.’
Both high-wage husbands have more educated wives and more educated wives have higher-wage husbands, regardless of weight.