What It Takes to Get the Pretty Girl or Cute Guy

Julie H Carmalt, Cornell University
John Cawley, Cornell University
Kara Joyner, Cornell University
Jeffery Sobal, Cornell University

Marriage and childbirth are preceded by the "matching" of men and women in the relationship market. This matching process is far less studied than its sequelae of cohabitation, marriage, fertility, and divorce. This investigation examines this demographically important area by analyzing one important aspect of voluntary matching: physical attractiveness. We estimate the probability of matching with a physically attractive partner, as a function of one's own characteristics such as physical attractiveness, body weight, education, and income using data from wave 3 of the Add Health Couples Sample. Results of this model provide the answer to our research question: what does it take to get the pretty girl or cute guy? We find that obesity is a significant disadvantage to matching with a physically attractive partner. Moreover, there are relatively few ways to compensate for obesity. The positive news is that good grooming or an attractive personality offset most (but not all) of this penalty.

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Presented in Session 72: Relationships & Sexual Behavior in Youth