The Gold Digger: Are Women Trading Beauty for Big Money?

Elizabeth Aura McClintock, “Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?”, 2014

Source: Odyssey

The idea of the “gold digger” and the “trophy wife” is constant in the media, and centers mostly around the idea of young, beautiful women looking for a rich, unattractive man. This idea has been supported in the past by other studies claiming that women were exchanging their beauty for men with status. This is called the “beauty-status exchange theory”. However, Elizabeth Aura McClintock set out to examine whether this claim was really true. Her methods for research included using data from a longitudinal study, where subjects were questioned repeatedly over the years. The respondents were from the U.S., and ranged from ages 12 to 18 years old for the first interview, to about 20 years old in their third interview.

As McClintock believed that previous studies did not tell the whole story about why people choose the partners they do, she changed some of the methods involved. Previous studies only looked at the status of the man, and the attractiveness of the woman. Because McClintock looked at the attractiveness of both sexes and the status of both sexes, she removed this bias. McClintock also argued that in relationships, men tend to also be older in comparison to their partner, which would explain the appearance of men having spent more time in school.

McClintock looked into past studies about what men and women find most important in a potential mate. The most important factor seems to be finding a partner similar to oneself, which is called matching. For example, McClintock found that those who come from the same socioeconomic status tend to pair up much more than those who do not. Socioeconomic status is also related to a person’s attractiveness, as the higher a person’s socioeconomic status is, the more attractive they are considered to be. Therefore, the two variables are not exclusive, but inform each other. Since McClintock’s research found that people choose partners with the same level of education achievement, they are also choosing people who are similarly attractive.

Basically, men and women like to date people who are similar to them in background, income, education, and attractiveness.

In the end, McClintock found that the idea of the “gold digger” can no longer be considered a common occurrence. Basically, men and women like to date people who are similar to them in background, income, education, and attractiveness. The stereotype about attractive women seeking out well to do men, that which is constantly portrayed in movies and tv shows, is nowhere near as common as the media makes it seem.

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