# Ecnomics of Physical Attractiveness

My brother sent me this article about dating that includes a brief analysis of the monetary values of height and other physical traits.

By tracking the success of online daters, the researchers calculated precisely how much extra income a man had to make (relative to the average manâ€™s income of \$62,500 per year) to offset a less than ideal attribute. Some of their findings:

Suppose youâ€™re an ordinary-looking guy whose online picture is ranked around the median in attractiveness. (In the study, the ratings of attractiveness were done by independent male and female observers hired by the researchers.) And suppose youâ€™d like to be as successful with women as a guy whose picture is ranked in the top tenth. Then youâ€™d need to make \$143,000 more than him. If your picture is ranked in the bottom tenth, youâ€™d need to make \$186,000 more than him.

Similarly, according to the study, a 5-foot-0 guy would need to make \$325,000 more than a 6-foot-0 man to be as successful in the online dating market. A 5-foot-4 man would need \$229,000; a 5-foot-6 man would need \$183,000; a 5-foot-10 man would need \$32,000. And if that 6-foot-0 man wanted to do as well as a 6-foot-4 man, heâ€™d need to make \$43,000 more.

For women in the online study, shorter is better. A 5-foot-6 women would need to make \$59,000 more than a 5-foot-0 or 5-foot-2 woman to do as well. Sheâ€™d need to make \$50,000 more than a 5-foot-4 woman.

Frankly, I'm skeptical about all those numbers. I can't imagine an experimental set-up that could discern such enormous variations in income vs. height preferences -- most experimental subjects couldn't make such distinctions. Does anyone believe that an average woman could determine that she'd demand an income of \$291,500 from a 5'4" tall guy in order to choose him over an average-earning 6'0" fellow? Such numbers are meaningless, especially since most people can't comprehend the lifestyle differences between incomes of \$62,000 and \$291,500. Maybe the women just pick random, ever-increasing numbers from multiple choice lists, but I don't believe the results of this study have any application to real life except for confirming what everyone knows: women like dating tall, rich men. Unsurprisingly, marriage is different from dating, and women looking for husbands prefer men who will be good fathers (a "parenting strategy" rather than a "mating strategy".)

A more interesting result from the study is a quantification of the observation that women are pickier than men.

When Robert Kurzban and Jaspon Weeden of the University of Pennsylvania studied more than 10,000 American customers of HurryDate â€” a company that gathers a couple of dozen people at a time for a round robin of three-minute speed dates â€” the psychologists found that, on average, a woman got a â€œyesâ€ from about half the men she met (meaning that the guy would like to go out with her). But a man, on average, got the thumbs-up from only a third of the women.

A study of speed daters in Germany showed that women were not only pickier than men but also more realistic about their own appeal in the dating market. Correctly divining that men put a premium on looks, the more attractive women set a higher bar for their partners than less attractive women did. But the German men set about the same bar for their partners no matter what they looked like themselves or how successful they were professionally.

These German men apparently cast their nets as wide as possible to take advantage of what the researchers call the â€œlow mate-choice costsâ€ â€” the chance to ask out a lot of women without getting any embarrassing face-to-face rejections.

Men try to date as many women as possible and then screen out the losers, whereas women try to pre-screen the losers so as to avoid dating them at all. This difference makes sense from a privative biological perspective: men don't risk much by impregnating as many women as possible, but women have to devote a lot of time and energy to each pregnancy they participate in. Fortunately we humans can transcend our biology (basically the definition of "civilization").