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Are Human Mating Preferences with Respect to Height Reflected in Actual Pairings?

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  • Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris-PSL

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Pair formation, acquiring a mate to form a reproductive unit, is a complex process. Mating preferences are a step in this process. However, due to constraining factors such as availability of mates, rival competition, and mutual mate choice, preferred characteristics may not be realised in the actual partner. People value height in their partner and we investigated to what extent preferences for height are realised in actual couples. We used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (UK) and compared the distribution of height difference in actual couples to simulations of random mating to test how established mate preferences map on to actual mating patterns. In line with mate preferences, we found evidence for: (i) assortative mating (r = .18), (ii) the male-taller norm, and, for the first time, (iii) for the male-not-too-tall norm. Couples where the male partner was shorter, or over 25 cm taller than the female partner, occurred at lower frequency in actual couples than expected by chance, but the magnitude of these effects was modest. We also investigated another preference rule, namely that short women (and tall men) prefer large height differences with their partner, whereas tall women (and short men) prefer small height differences. These patterns were also observed in our population, although the strengths of these associations were weaker than previously reported strength of preferences. We conclude that while preferences for partner height generally translate into actual pairing, they do so only modestly.
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... Social scientists often use the attributes of spouses to infer individual preferences and social norms. For example, a number of studies seek to quantify the prevalence of a "male-taller" norm in marriage (Gillis and Avis, 1980;Stulp et al., 2013) and the extent to which this norm affects inter-ethnic marriage patterns (Belot and Fidrmuc, 2010). Other studies look at differences in earnings between spouses (Winkler, 1998;Brennan, Barnett and Gareis, 2001;Raley, Mattingly and Bianchi, 2006), inferring from these patterns social preferences about whether husbands should earn more than their wives as well as implications of these preferences for time allocation, the division of resources, and marital stability (Schwartz and Gonalons-Pons, 2016). ...
... Two recent studies of spousal height differences helps illustrate our point about the difficulty of inferring preferences from equilibrium matches. Stulp et al. (2013) analyzed the distribution of height differences among couples in the United Kingdom's Millennium Cohort Study. They compared the actual distribution of height differences to hypothetical distributions based on random matching, drawing several inferences based on this comparison. ...
... It is also interesting to consider whether social norms may themselves be driven by the underlying distributions of traits. In the analysis of Stulp et al. (2013), there is a tendency for spouses to be pushed toward the actual mean difference in heights of 14 cm. We showed that this tendency can be explained as the result of positive assortative matching, with no need for a social norm related to height differences. ...
Thesis
The distribution of labor market activity across U.S. individuals has changed dramatically since 1960. While nearly all prime-age men used to participate in the labor force, men without a college education now experience substantial joblessness. At the same time, married women--—especially those with college degrees--—have taken up careers in increasing numbers. This dissertation explores relationships between American marriage and labor markets. It reveals new channels through which changing marriage-and-family arrangements have affected the evolution of labor market behaviors across gender and education subgroups. Its results help define the current landscape of labor and marriage inequality in the United States, and inform current debates over policies to promote job and family security. The first chapter presents a model in which young men find employment to enhance their value as marriage partners. When the effect of employment on marital value declines, young men’s employment declines as well, in preparation for a less favorable marriage market. Taking this prediction to U.S. data, I estimate that fewer young men sought employment after 2 interventions that reduced the value of gender-role-specialization within marriage: i) the adoption of unilateral divorce legislation, and ii) demand-driven improvements in women’s employment opportunities. I then use a structural estimation of the model to investigate interaction between the marriage market and male labor market shocks. Simulations find that the indirect effect of a negative shock to wages on young men’s employment, operating through the marriage market, is nearly as large as the direct effect that operates purely through the labor market. These findings highlight the changing marriage market as an important driver of secular decline in young men’s labor market involvement. The second chapter leverages the genealogical structure of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate intergenerational employment relationships. Previous measurements of the intergenerational transmission of women's employment status have been limited by a lack of detailed data on mothers' and daughters' employment behaviors. The intergenerational relationship is found to be strongest at the full-time employment margin for college-educated mothers, and substantially weaker at less-intensive employment margins and for less-educated mothers. The paper also documents a stark rise in inequality in mothers' full-time employment propensities in the 21st century, and attributes roughly 36% of this trend to differential intergenerational transmission across education groups. These results suggest a disproportionate influence in high-SES families of the childhood environment on gender identity, and that family-level transmission processes deepen the long-run effects of unequal labor market opportunities on inequality in mothers' career outcomes. The third chapter, from a work with David Lam, builds on standard marital matching models to address the question of whether it is possible to infer the existence of a "male breadwinner norm" among American families. We show that a variety of underlying social preferences about a given trait all generate positive assortative matching on that trait, and hence the same distribution of spousal trait differences in equilibrium. Applying this result to U.S. Census and administrative earnings data, we find that simple models of assortative matching can very closely replicate the observed distribution of spousal earnings differences, in which very few wives out-earn their husbands. We conclude that the distribution of spousal earnings differences in the U.S. provides little information about the existence of a male breadwinner norm or its effects on gender inequality in the labor market.
... This phenomenon is referred to as the "male-taller norm" (Beigel, 1954;Gillis and Avis, 1980). This effect seems to be driven by women, who prefer tall men much more than men prefer short women (Stulp et al., 2013a(Stulp et al., , 2013b(Stulp et al., , 2013c(Stulp et al., , 2013d. Some studies postulate that the male-taller norm evolved in ancient times, when men's physical strength and violence determined resource allocation, mate access, and thus reproductive success (Murray and Schmitz, 2011;Puts, 2010;Puts et al., 2015;Salska et al., 2008). ...
... Dominance, competitiveness, and masculinity could help a man fulfill his responsibilities in ancient times. These traits can be signaled by the man's physicality: Studies have shown that height is positively associated with masculinity, dominance, authority, prestige, and leadership (Blaker et al., 2013;Knapen et al., 2019;Murray and Schmitz, 2011;Stulp et al., 2012Stulp et al., , 2013aStulp et al., , 2013bStulp et al., , 2013cStulp et al., , 2013d. Furthermore, recent figures show that tall men, on average, benefit from relatively high income, social status, and educational attainment (Böckerman et al., 2017;Case and Paxson, 2008;Cinnirella et al., 2011;Deaton and Arora, 2009;Yamamura et al., 2015). ...
... By contrast, men who place importance on traditional gender-role norms cannot accept female partners who they perceive as too tall or too short, as they have a narrow range of acceptable heights for their female partners. This suggests that men who think gender roles are important are more likely to comply with not only the male-taller norm but also the male-nottoo-tall norm, which holds that people prefer the height difference between a husband and wife to be within a certain positive range (Stulp et al., 2013a(Stulp et al., , 2013b(Stulp et al., , 2013c(Stulp et al., , 2013d. ...
Article
This study used Taiwan’s Panel Study of Family Dynamics (PSFD) 2016 data to investigate the relationship between gender-role ideology and height preference in mate selection, finding that women prefer a tall partner much more than men prefer a short partner. However, when traditional gender norms prevail, men with a high levels of adherence to gender-role ideology cannot accept a female partner who is either too tall or too short. Men’s height preferences are more responsive to social norms than women’s, while women’s height preferences are more sensitive to their own demographic characteristics than men’s. The tallest and shortest female partners accepted by men with strong traditional gender-role ideology are 2.37 cm shorter and 2.21 cm taller, respectively, than men who disagree with gender norms. In marriage, gender-role ideology is not relevant to partner height, regardless of sex.
... From the perspective of kin selection (Hamilton, 1964), we argued that long-term social cohesion between groups of different cultural, ethnic, and religious origins is ensured if genetic bonds transcend group divisions . At the same time, we are aware that humans have a strong tendency toward homogamy, which has been demonstrated by several factors, e.g., body height (Stulp et al., 2013(Stulp et al., , 2017, religion (reviewed in Fieder and Huber, 2016), political attitudes, and ethnicity (Blackwell and Lichter, 2004;Fu and Heaton, 2008). Particularly the tendency to engage in ethnically and religiously homogamous marriages is an opposing trend to intermarriage Huber and Fieder, 2018;Schahbasi et al., 2020). ...
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To understand marriage patterns, homogamy, and fertility of women of European ancestry in the United States from an evolutionary perspective, we investigated if a prevalence of ancestral homogamy exists, the factors influencing a female preference for an ancestral homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage, and if ancestral homogamous vs. heterogamous marriages have an impact on fertility. Furthermore, we aim to determine the heritability of homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage behavior. We used the census data of 369,121 women in the United States married only once and aged between 46 and 60 years, provided by IPUMS USA (https://usa.ipums.org/usa/). We used linear mixed models to determine the association between the probability of a homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage and the individual fertility of women. We aimed to estimate the heritability (genetics and parental environment) of marriage behavior using a linear mixed model. We found that ancestral heterogamous marriages are more frequent compared to homogamous marriages, but only if all ancestry groups are included. If ancestry is aggregated, homogamous marriages are more frequent compared to heterogamous marriages. Most of the variance (up to 27%) in inter-ancestry marriage and fertility (up to 12%) is explained by ancestry per se, followed by the ratio of individuals of a certain ancestral background in a county (∼6%), indicating a frequency depending selection into marriage: the more individuals of a certain ancestry live in a county, the lower is the tendency to marry someone of a different ancestral background. Furthermore, we found that about 12% (depending to some extent on the clustering) of the marriage behavior is heritable. Being in a homogamous marriage and the income of the spouse are both significantly positively associated with the number of children women have and the probability that women have at least one child, albeit explaining only a very low proportion of the overall variance. The most important factor (in terms of variance explained) for being in an ancestral homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage, for the number of children, and for childlessness is the ancestry of the women. Most children are born to women of Irish, French, and Norwegian ancestry (IrishX: 3.24, FrenchX: 3.21, and NorwegianX: 3.18), the lowest number of children is to women Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1 July 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 614003 Schahbasi et al. Marriage in the Melting Pot of Latvian, Rumanian, and Russian ancestry (LatvianX: 2.26, RumanianX: 2.19, and RussianX: 2.35). Albeit, we are not able to distinguish the genetic and social heritability on the basis of our data, only a small heritability for in-group vs. out-group marriage behavior is indicated (∼12% of variance explained).
... Male height has also been considered as a signal of underlying genetic quality. Despite positive assortative mating for height, women prefer men who are relatively taller than they are in laboratory studies, national surveys, and personal ad responses (Pawlowski and Koziel, 2002;Pawlowski, 2003;Stulp et al., 2013). Male height appears unrelated to circulating T, but rather has been linked positively to T response during exertion (Kowal et al., 2021). ...
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Dominant theorizing and research surrounding the operation of intersexual selection in evolutionary psychology tends to be guided by an adaptationist framework and aligned with models of sexual selection involving direct benefits (e.g., parental care) and indirect "good gene" and condition-dependent benefits. In this way, evolutionary psychologists more often espouse Alfred Russel Wallaces' utilitarian viewpoint that traits become attractive because they honestly signal vigor and vitality, which gives priority to natural selection. In doing so, Darwin's esthetic perspective originally articulated in The Descent of Man and alternative models of sexual selection (e.g., Fisherian runaway), are given less consideration. This is despite some informative reviews on the topic in evolutionary psychology. In the current conceptual analysis, we discuss the potential of Prum's Lande-Kirkpatrick (LK) null model of sexual selection to help make sense of some of the mixed evidence regarding the links between attractive traits and purported markers of phenotypic and genetic condition. We then consider how the implications of the LK null model can help to shift theoretical assumptions and guide future work in evolutionary psychology on intersexual selection.
... However, it appears that the relationship between height and marriage probability is not entirely linear. Most studies have found that above a certain height point, the benefits of physical height begin to decline, with medium-tall individuals having higher marriage rates (Murray 2000;Herpin 2005;Manfredini et al., 2013;Stulp et al., 2013;Sohn 2015). ...
Article
This article examines the relationship between the height of adult males and marital outcomes, including likelihood of marrying, age at marriage, and marital fertility, in rural Spain. For this analysis, a sample of 4,501 men born between 1835 and 1975 living in 14 villages in northeastern Spain was taken. Previous research has shown that shorter individuals are less likely to marry. However, it is still disputed whether differences exist in the timing of marrying based on height, and little attention has been paid to the effect(s) of height on offspring. Family data were obtained from parish records and interviews with individuals and their families, while height data were obtained from military records, with individuals in Spain being conscripted at the age of 21 years. The data were linked according to nominative criteria using family reconstitution methods. The results confirm that shorter individuals were less likely to marry. Individuals of medium and medium-high height were the first to marry, with a small gap between them and shorter individuals. With regard to marital fertility, no difference in terms of average fertility by height were found, but there were small differences in timing of childbirth, possibly as a result of delayed marriage.
... Many mate preferences are relatively universal and therefore are likely to have at least some genetic basis (as suggested by, Sugiyama, 2015). While mate preferences are linked to actual mate selection (Li et al., 2013;Li and Meltzer, 2015;Buss and Schmitt, 2019), strong mate preferences do not always translate into real-world mate choice (Todd et al., 2007;Stulp et al., 2013). This is in part because mate preferences function in a tradeoff manner whereby some preferences are given priority over others (see Li et al., 2002;Thomas et al., 2020). ...
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Romantic love is a phenomenon of immense interest to the general public as well as to scholars in several disciplines. It is known to be present in almost all human societies and has been studied from a number of perspectives. In this integrative review, we bring together what is known about romantic love using Tinbergen’s “four questions” framework originating from evolutionary biology. Under the first question, related to mechanisms, we show that it is caused by social, psychological mate choice, genetic, neural, and endocrine mechanisms. The mechanisms regulating psychopathology, cognitive biases, and animal models provide further insights into the mechanisms that regulate romantic love. Under the second question, related to development, we show that romantic love exists across the human lifespan in both sexes. We summarize what is known about its development and the internal and external factors that influence it. We consider cross-cultural perspectives and raise the issue of evolutionary mismatch. Under the third question, related to function, we discuss the fitness-relevant benefits and costs of romantic love with reference to mate choice, courtship, sex, and pair-bonding. We outline three possible selective pressures and contend that romantic love is a suite of adaptions and by-products. Under the fourth question, related to phylogeny, we summarize theories of romantic love’s evolutionary history and show that romantic love probably evolved in concert with pair-bonds in our recent ancestors. We describe the mammalian antecedents to romantic love and the contribution of genes and culture to the expression of modern romantic love. We advance four potential scenarios for the evolution of romantic love. We conclude by summarizing what Tinbergen’s four questions tell us, highlighting outstanding questions as avenues of potential future research, and suggesting a novel ethologically informed working definition to accommodate the multi-faceted understanding of romantic love advanced in this review.
... This female demand should result in a particular nonlinear pattern for height relationships such that there is a curve break close to the height parity line. 3 Not many studies have actually examined this, but one that did found that this effect was relatively weak compared to what might have been expected from the extensive talk about this in the online dating literature (Stulp et al., 2013). Height was also found to be positively related to fertility (and thus fitness) for men, but not women (Stulp et al., 2015). ...
Article
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Assortative mating for both physical and psychological traits is well-established in many animal species, including humans. Most studies, however, only compute linear measures of mate similarity, typically Pearson correlations. However, it is possible that trait similarity, or dissimilarity, has complex patterns missed by the correlation metric. We investigated a dataset of 340 Spanish couples for evidence of relationships across 7 traits: age, educational attainment, intelligence, and the scales of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire: Extroversion, Psychoticism, Neuroticism, and the Lie scale. We replicated well known linear assortative mating for age, intelligence and education. Like most studies, we find weak to no assortative mating for the personality traits. Analysis of nonlinear patterns using regression splines failed to reveal anything beyond the linear relations. Finally, we examined cross-trait variation for couples but we found little of note. Overall, it does not appear that there are complex patterns for traits in human couples.
... With a few exceptions (most notably, Murray, 2000), most studies find that tallness past a certain point yields decreasing returns. Stulp et al. (2013) found evidence that women preferred men who were 'not too tall' (a 25-30 cm height difference, versus a 30-35 cm height difference), and height preferences were in part based on partner's heights. Sohn (2016) similarly argued that women's preferences in husbands' heights depended in part on their own height. ...
Article
Full-text available
Adult body height appears to be significantly associated with marital outcomes: taller men across contexts have been found to be more likely to be married, and more likely to be married at younger ages. We are interested in exploring both outcomes individually and simultaneously, using an unique, individual-level dataset of Dutch men and their brothers born between 1841 and 1900. To do so, we exploit survival models and cure models. While survival models yield a single estimate for the hazard (age at) marriage, cure models yield two: one for the likelihood of marriage, and one for the hazard of (or age at) first marriage. Cure models thus account for selection into marriage, while survival models do not. We find that, in the survival analyses, being in the shortest 20% of heights is associated with later ages of marriage, relative to being average height. However, when we account for selection into marriage with cure models, we find that height is no longer associated with age at marriage. Instead, we find that height is associated with the likelihood of being married, with being in the bottom 20% of heights associated with a roughly 50% decreased likelihood of being married relative to being average height. We therefore conclude that height may be a gatekeeper for access to marriage, but it appears that other factors – likely related to the ability to set up an independent household - are more important in determining the timing of marriage for our research population.
... Simulation analyses are an increasingly popular tool in the study of assortative mating. Similar simulation analyses have been used in the study of couples' income inequality (Binder and Lam, 2018), and to examine the strength of preferences for partners' height (Stulp et al., 2013;Sohn, 2015). The counterfactual logic of the simulation approach in this article is comparable to that of Agent-Based Models (Grow and Van Bavel, 2015;Grow, Schnor and Van Bavel, 2017). ...
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The reversal of the gender gap in higher education has been a major social transformation: women now outnumber men in higher education in nearly all OECD countries. Patterns of assortative mating have also changed as highly educated women increasingly form relationships with men who have less education (hypogamous unions). In this article, we draw on rich register data from Sweden to ask whether the emergence of hypogamous unions signals the emergence of a new female status dominance in unions. We also consider how the status distribution in these unions compares to homogamous (both highly educated) or hypergamous (he highly educated) unions. We use Swedish register data and study couples who have their first child together. We refer to a multi-dimensional view of status and use indicators of social class background, income, and occupational prestige. We find that in hypogamous unions, women tend to have a higher social class background and occupational prestige, but lower income than their partners. The income gap between partners is not simply a consequence of the gender wage gap, but driven by selection into different union types. Men and women who form hypogamous unions are negatively selected in terms of their income.
... In the context of migration and cohabitation of culturally and religiously diverse communities in contemporary urban centers it could be argued that to ensure long-term social cohesion through the highest possible of level of cooperation between groups, there need to be genetic bonds between groups. At the same time, there is a prevailance of homogamy that has been demonstrated for several factors: e.g., body height , Stulp et al. 2013), religion (reviewed in Fieder & Huber 2016, political attitudes and ethnicity (Blackwell & Lichter 2004, Fu, X., & Heaton 2008. While individuals on the political left and right prefer someone with a similar political attitude, both sides of the political spectrum show a preference for a partner with the same ethnic background -more so on the political right than the political left (Anderson et al 2014). ...
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Objective To understand marriage patterns, homogamy and fertility of women of European ancestry in the United States from an evolutionary perspective we aim to investigate if a prevalence for ancestral homogamy exists, the factors influencing a female preference for an ancestral homogamous vs. an heterogamous marriage, if an ancestral homogamous vs. heterogamous marriages influences fertility and if there is an inherted component of the tendency to marry homogamously vs. heterogamously. Furthermore we aim to determine the heritability of homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage behaviour. Methods We used the census data of 369,121 US women married only once and aged between 46 and 60 years, provided by IPUMS USA ( https://usa.ipums.org/usa/ ). We used linear mixed models to determine associations of the probability of a homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage and the individual fertility of a women. We aimed to estimate the heritability (in our case genetic & parental environment) of marriage behaviour using a linear mixed model. Results We found, that ancestral heterogamous marriages are more frequent (56.5%), compared to homogamous marriages (43.5%). Most of the variance in inter- ancestry marriage and fertility is explained by ancestry per se, followed by the ratio of individuals of a certain ancestral background in a county: the more individuals of a certain ancestry live in a county the lower is the tendency to marry someone of a different ancestral background. Furthermore we found that about 11.8% of the marriage behaviour is heritable. Being in a homogamous marriage as well as the income of the spouse are both significantly positively associated with the number of children a women has and the probability that a women has at least one child. Discussion The most important explaining factor (in terms of variance explained) for being in an ancestral homogamous vs. heterogamous marriage, for number of children, as well as childlessness is the ancestry of the women. Albeit we are not able to distinguish the genetic and social heritability on basis of our data, with a total value of 11.8% variance explained, only a small heritability for in-group vs, out-group marriage behaviour is indicated.
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Sexual competition is associated closely with parental care because the sex providing less care has a higher potential rate of reproduction, and hence more to gain from competing for multiple mates. Sex differences in choosiness are not easily explained, however. The lower-caring sex (often males) has both higher costs of choice, because it is more difficult to find replacement mates, and higher direct benefits, because the sex providing more care (usually females) is likely to exhibit more variation in the quality of contributions to the young. Because both the costs and direct benefits of mate choice increase with increasing parental care by the opposite sex, general predictions about sex difference in choosiness are difficult. Furthermore, the level of choosiness of one sex will be influenced by the choosiness of the other. Here, we present an ESS model of mutual mate choice, which explicitly incorporates differences between males and females in life history traits that determine the costs and benefits of choice, and we illustrate our results with data from species with contrasting forms of parental care. The model demonstrates that sex differences in costs of choice are likely to have a much stronger effect on choosiness than are differences in quality variation, so that the less competitive sex will commonly be more choosy. However, when levels of male and female care are similar, differences in quality variation may lead to higher levels of both choice and competition in the same sex.