The typical stereotype when someone sees a pretty woman marrying a rich man is that she is labeled a “trophy wife.” However, is there any truth to this stereotype? A new study titled Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection, by Elizabeth McClintock, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame suggests that it’s purely a myth.
In her research, she analyzed the traits of about 1,500 couples in their early 20s who were either living together, married, or have been dating for at least three months. She then compared qualities such as level of attractiveness and socioeconomic status within these couples, and found barely any evidence of the “trophy wife” stereotype. Instead, she found that people simply tend to find significant others most similar to them. While trophy wives do indeed happen on occasion, it’s not as common as society has been led to believe.
“I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women,” said Elizabeth McClintock in a statement. “So, on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking — perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces, nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc.”
But what about that time you were absolutely certain that someone was a “trophy wife?” This is what McClintock had to say in a statement:
“I’ve heard doctors’ wives referred to as trophy wives by observers who only notice her looks and his status and fail to realize that he is good-looking too and that she is also a successful professional — or was before she had kids and left her job,”
One key thing to also mention is that McClintock found that any sort of evidence pointing to a beauty-status exchange married were non-existent in more committed couples. If she were to just use data from the 543 married couples in her study, then there would be zero evidence of a marriage based on exchanging looks for money.
What about the stereotype of “sugar daddies” you ask? That was also debunked in a 2013 study posted on The Review of Economics and Statistics, which found that men who married younger women actually learned less than those with wives at a similar age.