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Posted 01.17.06

Socioeconomic Status a Factor in Women's Choice of Partners

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- In mate preference research, some findings have shown that men place a high level of importance on the physical attractiveness of a long-term mate, whereas women have indicated that they were willing to trade a mate's attractiveness for his status and resources. Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher is exploring whether a woman's socioeconomic status and other factors, such as education, play a role in the trade-offs they make when choosing potential mates.

The study, conducted by David Geary, professor of psychology at MU, and doctoral students Jacob Vigil and Jennifer Byrd-Craven, focused on the trade-offs low-income women make when choosing potential long-term and short-term mates. They examined if these trade-offs correlated with family background, life history development, personality or current circumstances, such as income.

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The researchers sampled 460 women with an average income of less than $10,000 per year. The women completed a mate preference survey and surveys that assessed family background, life history, conscientiousness, sexual motives, self-ratings and current circumstances. The participants distributed 100 points across six traits of potential long-term and short-term mates, including looks, money, status, commitment, intelligence and kindness.

The findings show that the most preferred characteristic in a long-term mate was commitment, followed by kindness, intelligence and looks. For short-term mates, the most preferred characteristic was looks, followed by money and kindness. The women who focused more on a short-term mate's money were more poorly educated, more likely to require government financial assistance and had more children.

"For the women in the study, a long-term mate's status was not as important as is found in more affluent samples, perhaps because few potential mates with status are available, and a significant subset of the women assessed in the study appeared to view short-term mating relationships as a means to secure money and not 'good genes,'" Geary said.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Human Nature Review.



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