Why Are Attractive Women Always Marrying Unattractive Men?

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April 9 2013 11:13 AM

Why Are Attractive Women Always Marrying Unattractive Men?

wedding figures
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

gmcdowell

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, founder/CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview and The Google Resume:

Allow me to draw a picture. I'm going to assume that everyone is heterosexual and in one-to-one marriages (e.g., not polygamous marriages), that there's the same number of men and women, that they marry at the same rate, that there's the same percent of attractive women as attractive men, and that the attractive people of each gender marry at the same rate. I'll deal with these assumptions later.

Here's a chart representing married people that I've color-coded for ease of elaboration.

Observe that:

  • For every attractive woman that marries an attractive man, an attractive man marries an attractive woman. Therefore (with the earlier stated assumptions), the frequency of attractive women marrying attractive men must equal the the frequency of attractive men marrying attractive women. That is, PINK = PINK.
  • The frequency of attractive women marrying unattractive men = the frequency of attractive men marrying unattractive women. That is, GREEN = BLUE.

So your question is: Why do good looking women often marry men who are way less attractive [i.e., why is GREEN > PINK] while good-looking men more-often marry good-looking women [i.e., why is PINK > BLUE]? That is, why is GREEN > PINK while PINK > BLUE?

The answer, of course, is that it's not. GREEN = BLUE. Thus, if GREEN > PINK, then BLUE > PINK.

Thus, if what you were saying is true, then the earlier assumptions must be faulty. So one of the following must be the case:

  • Everyone is not, in fact, heterosexual and in one-to-one marriages. (This is obviously true. However, polygamous marriages are relatively unusual in the Western world and thus do not substantially skew the numbers. The percent of gay people is relatively equal between men and women and also would not skew the numbers significantly.)
  • There aren't equal numbers of men and women. (This is basically false.)
  • Men and women don't marry at the same rates. (This is false. As every heterosexual marriage requires a man and woman, they must marry at the same rate.)
  • The percent of attractive men != percent of attractive women. (This may or may not be true, depending on what it takes for someone to be considered "attractive" to you.)
  • Attractive men and attractive women don't marry at the same rate. (Ah, here is a weak point! In order for attractive women to marry unattractive men [GREEN] at a higher rate than attractive men marry unattractive women [BLUE], attractive men would have be getting married at lower rates then attractive women. To be observable / obvious, it would have to be a pretty substantial difference. I can't necessarily rule this out entirely. But, then the answer to your question has nothing to do with what people look for in a mate and has everything to do with an undersupply of attractive men who want to marry. Also, it would still mean that pretty women are just as likely to marry attractive men as attractive men are to marry pretty women (which, in another comment, you said wasn't the case). PINK still equals PINK.)

In other words, either gays and polygamous people are ruining everything, attractive men just don't get married as often, OR this is all in your head / has something to do with your standards of attractiveness. I'll bet on the last of these.

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