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March 06, 2014

"Proof" of Hypergamy?

Mein Gott im Himmel! Our beloved Texan99 (who is all about the giving) offers up good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Finally, Science has helpfully provided a "carefully controlled" study that can be use to "prove" that women are hypergamous!

corvette.pngLike Tex, we can't recall ever being terribly impressed with cars. We dated a lot of guys in high school. Only one drove a fancy car (a 1962 white corvette convertible), and frankly we decide to go out with him despite the fancy car, not because of it. After the first date, we declined to go out with him again. He was from a wealthy family and had a privileged background and we really didn't have much in common.

But as we've repeatedly pointed out, these are anecdotes (the plural of which is not "facts"). Science is concerned with cold, hard facts and rigorous, carefully designed studies that use the scientific method to counter the natural human tendency to cherry pick evidence that conveniently confirms what we already thought was true. OK, you can all stop laughing now.

Let's take a look at this study. Dr. Helen describes it thusly:

I frequently hear women or even men say that hypergamy, the tendency for women to find mates of higher status, is untrue or rarely true. However, a study on status in the book shows otherwise: In a carefully controlled experiment (Guéguen and Lamy 2012), researchers tested the idea of how important status is to women. They placed men in expensive cars and instructed them to approach women and ask for their phone numbers. Then they had the men do the same thing in medium- and low-status cars.
The results? The men were successful 23.3 percent of the time when women saw them in a high-status car, 12.8 percent of the time when they drove a middle-status car, and 7.8 percent of the time when they drove a low-status car. Clearly, women are monitoring our status, and we’re acutely aware of that fact.

So the next time someone asks for “proof” of hypergamy, now you can just give the statistics of the willingness of women to give out their number to the guy in the Maserati.

There are a number of problems with this study (not the least of which is the possibility that driving an expensive car makes a man feel more confident, confidence being a well-known factor in romantic success), but let's start by looking at the numbers. If we assume the results of this study can be correctly applied to all women, the study "proved" that if a random man in a car approaches 100 random women and asks for their phone number, more than half (56%) about 85% will say no regardless of what kind of car he's driving. [Note to self - do NOT attempt math with percentages when you're in a hurry. See explanation at end of post! Thanks, MikeD :)]

That 44% 14.6% would say yes seems more than a bit suspect to us, so we searched for more information about the study. It turns out that the sample of men asking for phone numbers was purposely biased - they were screened for high attractiveness to women. The sample of women they approached was random, though. This doesn't seem like an accurate model of real dating behavior, much less real marriage behavior. Extremely attractive men don't usually approach women randomly, regardless of age or attractiveness. Their standards are higher than those of less attractive men because they can afford to be picky. The same is true for women.

What does the willingness of women to accept non-random propositions from handsome men prove about women's marriage standards? This is important, because marriage behavior (not hooking up behavior) is what hypergamy is actually about:

hypergamy: the practice among Hindu women of marrying into a caste at least as high as their own.

1. anthropol a custom that forbids a woman to marry a man of lower social status
2.any marriage with a partner of higher social status

Notice the surprising lack of references to female biology, the scientifically reconstructed social behavior of prehistoric cavemen, or bonobo chimps in the wild. Hypergamy is about cultural practices and norms, and how women decide whom to marry, not how they decide whether to give their real (or fake) phone number to a decidedly non-random sample of very handsome men in cars of varying price tags.

According to the study abstract, this study wasn't even designed to measure hypergamy (the preference for marrying men of the same or higher status) at all!

Research has found that, for long-term dating, women value men with greater financial resources and higher status, while for short-term dating they value men with greater physical attractiveness. However, there are discrepant results for both long- and short-term dating. As most of the previous studies used only questionnaires, we conducted a field experiment to evaluate women’s receptivity to men’s date requests.

All of this retroactive embroidering of "scientific" studies reminds us of another frequently cited study among the hypergamy-is-destiny crowd:

The study where male college students were far more likely to accept an offer of casual sex with a complete stranger than female college students is often cited as proof that men and women innately differ in their desire for sex. The problem is that it doesn't actually establish that at all. The study tells us only the "what" - not the "why".

We've already pointed out several times that the risks of accepting such an offer are far lower for men than they are for women. Part of that could be chalked up to biology: men are bigger (and more aggressive) than women, so women rightly fear violent rape or injury more than men do. Pregnancy is another consequence where biology can fairly be said to factor into the decision. But many who take the "nature" side of the nature/nurture debate argue that women - simply by virtue of biology - don't want or like sex as much as men.

And this may actually be true: it's one explanation among many possible ones: higher risk, lower reward, cultural conditioning, the asymmetrical stigma attached to casual sex... Biology. Or perhaps simply that, for a whole host of reasons, casual sex just isn't as much fun for women?

Perhaps ironically, hypergamy doesn't actually strike us as a bad thing. Marriage and family formation are all about the creation and preservation of wealth and security. Men and women alike want to see their genes passed to the next generation and presumably want their progeny to be at least as secure and prosperous as the families they grew up in. But if you're a scientist and want to find out whether women are predisposed to marry men of equal-or-greater status, wouldn't it make sense to look at the comparative socio-economic status of actual women who have actually gotten married?

assortchart_1.jpg

Or maybe we could look at how many wives are more educated or make more than their husbands. When it comes to how real people choose spouses, decades of research show that homogamy is the actual norm.

But never mind all this actual marriage data. Explaining complex human behaviors in terms of bonobos, cave men, and non-random handsome men picking up random women makes tons more sense.

**************

Hopefully correct math this time. Note, this works only if each man conducts an equal number of trials per car type... I think. Please let me know if I'm wrong and I'll gladly correct and credit you!

horrible math.png

I am such a dork.... sorry about that.

Posted by Cassandra at March 6, 2014 08:59 AM

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Comments

When my bride and I met, I was in the Army, she an Environmental Engineer who made more than twice what I did. When we got married, I got a fairly significant increase in pay (BAS & BAQ). She used to joke that I married her for my money.

Posted by: MikeD at March 6, 2014 12:53 PM

Now, Mike, we know you did.
She, however, musta married you for your mad cooking skillz.
heh
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 6, 2014 01:26 PM

Or his dead sexy wit and common sense :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 01:33 PM

Another thing I found amusing about this study was the notion that giving a guy your phone number means you're interested in dating him.

I can think of at least one occasion on which, having previously said "no" to a particularly persistent guy, I finally gave him a phone number. Not *my* phone number, but one that was one or two digits off.

Wethinks they would have had to actually follow up with these women to see if they actually showed up for a date to know whether these women were actually interested in dating the guy. A man who will walk up to you on the street and ask you for your phone number would set off all sorts of alarm bells. I wouldn't be surprised if some women wouldn't give out a phone number just to escape a very weird situation?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 01:38 PM

Funny to say, when we married, I only cooked a little for us. I had been out of the habit for so long (can't cook in the barracks), I had to pick it back up. I've probably cooked more for us in the past year than in the first five years of our marriage.

Or his dead sexy wit and common sense :p
Truly, I wish I could claim that, or that she wanted me for my mind. But I fear she originally wanted me for my looks. S'true. We met at a bar where she pointed me out to her friend (who I had actually dated for a short time). The friend said, "oh, I'll introduce you." It's a curse, being this really, really, ridiculously good-looking. *BlueSteel*
(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-3QvSvgF5f0Q/TYSehA_7eEI/AAAAAAAABpo/mnmuU6eMti0/s1600/01.jpg for reference)

Posted by: MikeD at March 6, 2014 01:42 PM

And I need to point out an error in your analysis:

If we assume the results of this study can be correctly applied to all women, the study "proved" that if a random man in a car approaches 100 random women and asks for their phone number, more than half (56%) will say no regardless of what kind of car he's driving.

Actually, the study says more than three-quarters will say no. 23.3% was as high as the number-giving-out got. So you're more right than you actually knew.

Posted by: MikeD at March 6, 2014 02:01 PM

The unintended consequence of the troublesomeness of the likes of Shawn T. Smith, PsyD - and that ilk, male and female, and studies of most any kind – is that it proves something without having a study assigned to it; namely that there are too many certifiably ‘educated’ people running about with too much time on their hands. What would it take to scrounge up a study of why there are more studies and studiers than plumbers and people who can hang a door properly?

Worst yet to come are the probers of the encephalon. Between them, the social science studiers and the neuromantic probers, they will devise the unified theory of human action. Humanity then will be spared the inconvenience of being essentially, interestingly, appealingly, mysteriously, human.

Posted by: George Pal at March 6, 2014 03:02 PM

The unintended consequence of the troublesomeness of the likes of Shawn T. Smith, PsyD - and that ilk, male and female, and studies of most any kind – is that it proves something without having a study assigned to it; namely that there are too many certifiably ‘educated’ people running about with too much time on their hands.

Amen, George :p

Amen.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 03:09 PM

Actually, the study says more than three-quarters will say no. 23.3% was as high as the number-giving-out got. So you're more right than you actually knew.

I'm not sure that's right either, though. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about this - it's actually quite confusicating.

Originally I did think that at least 3/4 (100% minus 23.3% yesses = 76.7% noes) of the women said no. But when I rethought it, I backed that out of my post and (wrongly, I think) just added the percentages assuming that equal numbers of trials were made with low/med/high value cars. I figured if I were going to make a claim, I should err on the side of overstating the yesses rather than understating them.

If that's true and we assume 1200 trials (400 per car type - and *of course* each guy is equally represented in each car type trial because otherwise we're introducing yet another bias), then the % of women who said "yes" would be 14.6%

And 85.4% of them would say "no". I'll post my math for people to laugh at :p I knew I shouldn't have rushed this - thanks for questioning it!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 03:54 PM

I thought there might be a shorthand way to combine the percentages this morning, but was too rushed. If my assumption (equal numbers of trials per car type and man) is correct, then I could simply have averaged the percentages to get something very close to the same answer. Thanks, Mike!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 04:08 PM

I see where I went wrong now, Mike.

I pulled out the piece of paper I used this morning with my chicken scratchings on it. I had written, "at least 7/10 won't give their number no matter what kind of car he's driving".

But then I got wrapped around the axle because I didn't know the number of trials, so I didn't know if the percentages were calculated from equally sized samples. I should have just assumed that (and said so) and then done the math.

I'm always amazed at how reluctant I am to assume things, even when it is clearly beneficial. Thanks again!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 04:22 PM

...decades of research show that homogamy is the actual norm.

Not if hypergamy includes homogamy as a subset, as the Hindu practice and the anthropological definition imply. Then the most normal thing is hypergamy, QED.

Posted by: Grim at March 6, 2014 04:33 PM

That's why I looked it up, Grim. When people (Taranto, the MRA/PUA crowd, Glenn Reynolds, etc) talk about hypergamy, they always equate it with "marrying *up*".

But marrying within your own class is also part of some, not all, definitions. The word itself doesn't even mean the same thing to everyone who uses it.

I had never seen it defined before as "not marrying below your present socio-economic caste" before, and I'm betting most other folks haven't, either.

I shouldn't write this type of post anymore, really. I just don't have time to do the kind of job I want to do before work. I like to be careful and think my way through things, and that takes more time than I have to give.

Maybe I am back to elephant pictures, or maybe we'll just have to accept that a post can't be a careful/thorough essay.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 04:41 PM

FWIW, I would think not marrying below your class would be the default state for both men and women. I'm not even sure the data show that men used to marry below their class.

There are all sorts of "hyper/hypo"gamy: status, economic, educational, looks. It all really depends on what quality you're using as a basis of comparison. But most studies I've seen over the years have repeatedly found that the "men marry down/women marry up" chestnut isn't broadly accurate.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 04:45 PM

Bah! What benighted scholars are these? Thorgrim needs no finely-wrought chariot or well-proportioned steed to attract the comely wenches! Thorgrim relies on his mighty thews and his well-reknowned ginormous codpiece to achieve his amorous desires! Yea, verrily, when I have gone a-viking,the women flock to Thorgrim to be sacked and pillaged properly!

-- Thorgrim Foehammer

Posted by: a former european at March 6, 2014 05:18 PM

afe, I have truly missed your legendary rants :p

Thorgrim's a worthy successor to your previous characters.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2014 05:30 PM

Sacked and pillaged? Every time I see the word "pillage" I think of the Hagar the Horrible cartoon, where he is exhorting his men: "NO NO NO! It's rape, pillage, plunder, and burn, IN THAT ORDER!!"

Posted by: Rex at March 6, 2014 07:49 PM

Cass,

I was just pulling your leg (apparently the busted one, to judge from the reaction). I know you hate this 'hypergamy' concept a lot, so it was amusing to me that you'd provided an actual proof of it if we took the origin or first definition as binding.

I'm not sure how much 'class' means in America anyway. It means something, to be sure, but we don't define it in cleanly monetary terms. There's a lot of looking down on people who make very good livings in socially disreputable trades, like petroleum engineering, and a lot of looking up to people who make poorer livings in socially-but-not-monetarily valued trades, like journalism.

Posted by: Grim at March 6, 2014 10:23 PM

Ok - so I can't even pronounce the word despite years of Phonics lessons. . .

The status thing has always driven me crazy. If you really want to look at class/status . . .look at how people ACT with or without the $$ symbols such as cars, clothes, etc

To be honest growing up I had status but didn't have a clue. Evidently a ranch (medium sized) is status.. . .from the outside point of view. For those of us working on the ranch it was a different story. I started driving a 66 Chevy pickup when I was 8 (and assorted tractors). Didn't graduate from said pickup until I went to college. Lemme tell ya - 2 years at Baylor driving a 76 Ford Torino - you stick out from the crowd of Beamers, Acuras, trucks w/all the bells nd whistles etc etc LOL First car I bought was after sophomore year - Honda Accord.

My husband? Had status too but didn't know it. He drove used cars that he took care of - very used cars until his 6th year in the Army until he was finally able to afford getting a new one . . . and one really beat up vehicle his junior year of high school that the insurance company finally gave the $$ for. Yes, he was truly able to claim his little Honda Civic getting run over by a herd of antelope! ;-)

Posted by: Nina at March 6, 2014 11:57 PM

BTW - Positve/Assortative Mating sounds like some sort of disease . . . ;-)

Posted by: Nina at March 6, 2014 11:59 PM

I beg to differ. The car was only expensive to me, but worth every penny. A Triumph TR-6, and it was high school and the seventies.

I don't even remember the details about how it came about, but I was driving one of the prettiest cheerleaders home through the dark North Carolina countryside. Then the car died.

It took me some time but eventually it fired back up, and off we went. She asked me if she could drive.

Top down, radio blaring, beautiful young woman at the wheel. Every penny.

Posted by: Allen at March 7, 2014 04:16 AM

I'm not sure how much 'class' means in America anyway. It means something, to be sure, but we don't define it in cleanly monetary terms. There's a lot of looking down on people who make very good livings in socially disreputable trades, like petroleum engineering, and a lot of looking up to people who make poorer livings in socially-but-not-monetarily valued trades, like journalism.

I can't imagine on what basis anyone would look down on someone in petroleum engineering. Honorable work is honorable work. Some people are overly status-conscious - that will never change. Best to ignore them.

I have a close relative who remarried after spending several years as a widow. Her second husband didn't graduate from college (neither did she!) and had made his living in a blue collar trade. He's as smart as a whip, responsible, and a wonderful husband. Some of her friends tried to warn her off him. I thought they were a great match. They complement each other. The irony is that she grew up in a working class family but "married up" the first time (at least in the socio-economic sense).

Did she "marry down" the second time? I don't think so. It depends on what one values.

People define status in different ways. Education has always been revered. Sadly a lot of folks on the right are trying to run education down. I think that's misguided and foolish. Education can't make a foolish or dissolute person wise or principled, but the idea that educating yourself is not important is just plain stupid. It's particularly amusing to hear that kind of talk from people who have advanced degrees. There's a sort of "I've got mine, now get off my lawn" aesthetic :p

I'm proud that I finally went back to college after I raised my boys. I worked hard for my degree and it paid off financially. But more importantly, finishing school broadened my horizons and made me a better thinker. Neither my Mom nor mother in law graduated from college. Nor did my oldest friend in the Marine Corps. I don't look down on them (how could I?), but I'm not jumping on the 'college is superfluous' bandwagon either.

My Mom wanted to go to college very much, but in her day that wasn't encouraged because let's face it - what do women need with all that fancy book-larnin'? They're "just" going to be wives and mothers :p I think that was a byproduct of the post WWII period when society turned to family building with a vengeance. And we've grown so short-sighted that we see that brief postwar period as the norm, when in many ways it was anomalous when viewed in the context of a larger historical time frame.

As I said in my post, the cultural practice of hypergamy doesn't bother me a bit. In a competitive world, the tactic makes sense. I grew up reading literature in which parents of all social strata frowned on BOTH men and women marrying below their class.

So it's bizarre to me to see some of these pundits yammering on and on about The Heartbreak of Hypergamy (but never hypo- or homogamy) as though it were some kind of inflexible, natural law of biology rather than a cultural adaptation with some value. My sense is that they use the term to short-circuit rational reflection and gin up distrust and resentment between the sexes.

One article that I didn't link to yesterday was a great example of this. The author was citing statistics left and right to make her point... right up until she got to the part about women being naturally hypergamous because... OVARIES/EVO PSYCH, or some such nonsense. All of a sudden, there's not a fact in sight - she moves to anecdotes and lists of movie stars to support her argument.

I can respect an argument that is backed up with something more than 5 or 6 cherry picked examples. But when we get into the realm of normally reasonable pundits veering off into weird assertions that 15 year old boys are not having enough sex because of feminists (wow...who knew?) or that upper class, educated women are somehow preventing the lower classes from marrying...

That's emotion talking. And the hypergamy thing evokes a deep, visceral reaction in a lot of men that I don't understand. It's like their brains just switch off and suddenly they're 16 and fuming because they didn't get the girl and looking for a something - anything - to blame :p

Very weird.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2014 06:46 AM

"NO NO NO! It's rape, pillage, plunder, and burn, IN THAT ORDER!!"

Heh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2014 06:49 AM

Allen:

I see a difference between a guy who drives a sporty car because he loves cars and one who drives a sporty car to impress other people. One is indulging a natural interest (IOW, that's part of who he is). The other is, I think, too worried about status and what other people think.

I tend to prefer a sporty car, though I'm not willing to spend a ton of money on one. I don't particularly care for the way my WRX looks, but love the way it drives. Though I'm afraid my manual transmission days may be over.

*sigh*

My last two years of HS, I went to an expensive private school where most of the kids were from wealthy families. My Dad was in the Navy, and I was one of a handful of kids whose families were more middle class. To me, a 17 year old driving a brand new Porsche or a BMW seems... oh, I don't know, a little excessive?

Like most people, my opinions were shaped by my experiences. I tutored more than one guy in my 30s who was failing Calculus because making the payments on his fancy car was more important to him than studying so he could get a better job than working at Tower records. And in the military, there are tons of Lance Corporals who can't get by on their salaries because they splurged on cars and stereo systems they can't afford.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2014 07:13 AM

My first car was a 1962 stick shift Rambler with no radio, no AC and a tiny engine. Two children and four grandchildren later.....

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at March 7, 2014 09:38 AM

My Dad had a '64 rambler convertible. I spent a lot of hours polishing the chrome on that thing.

I still remember how much room there was around the engine when you lifted the hood!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2014 09:45 AM

Oh, now, despite what I said at Grim's place, that white Corvette might well have won me over. That is one stylish car. Worth making what otherwise might be a mésalliance.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 7, 2014 04:44 PM

He was easily one of the best looking guys I ever dated, Tex. But there just wasn't much there to hold someone's interest.

I can't imagine being involved with someone I couldn't talk to.

The spousal unit isn't a big talker, but when he does open his mouth he usually has something interesting to say.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2014 05:10 PM

Cars are expensive. I grew up poor, so for me it was a motorcycle. I could ride forever on a single tank of gas, and something about a physically-fit young dude on a bike with black leathers seems to make a significant portion of the female population drop their panties right quick. I wasn't really a "bad boy", but I could play one on TV for women.

Finally got rid of the bike when my wife at the time announced she was pregnant with my son. That is when you know you are domesticated and your wild oat-sowing days are over -- when you sell your motorcycle to buy a crib, a baby stroller, and onesies for the new arrival.

Posted by: a former european at March 7, 2014 05:58 PM

I couldn't tell you what cars my boyfriends had. As I said over at Grim's, my folks drove high end cars even before I was a twinkle my Pop's eye. I grew up staring at the stars lying in the back window of a Cadillac and four-wheeling in the mud in Jeep trucks. My first car was a 1978 Camaro Z28 special ordered with the largest engine to be had - one so large that the entire cab had to be moved rearward 6 inches to accomodate it. Six inches more hood, six inches less trunk....I was a teenager, what did I need a trunk for?
However, all those pale in comparison to one ride on a beautiful Montana summer night. The other female firefighter on our crew and I were out in the bars one night having a good time drinking and dancing. We were having a very good time, too, until I looked around and discovered that she'd left. Took the car and left. It wasn't a bar that was close to the ranger station. Needless to say, I was pissed the freak off....until one of the cowboys I'd been dancing with offered to give me a ride. He was nice, had been polite and respectful all evening long, so I said ok. We walked outside, and I shit you not, his *ride*....was his horse.
Yep, I rode back to the ranger station on the back of a handsome cowboy's horse under the huge Montana night sky filled with a billion stars. Somehow, I don't think he was too concerned about status, and I have never given a shit about it.
Well, except when it comes officer's wives......

Posted by: DL Sly at March 9, 2014 04:59 PM

Yeah, those officers' wives are *such* snobs... :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2014 06:36 PM

Wardroom wives club might make a pretty good premise for a TV show.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at March 9, 2014 11:58 PM

...and I shit you not, his *ride*....was his horse.

Horses don't run into things when you're drunk and/or your hands are otherwise engaged.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 10, 2014 10:43 AM

I can't imagine on what basis anyone would look down on someone in petroleum engineering.

RAPER OF THE PLANET!!1eleventy1

It's the same reason bankers are looked down on. There are those who look down on the industry and everyone in it. That you make a lot of money doing it just makes it worse.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 10, 2014 10:50 AM

Horses don't run into things when you're drunk and/or your hands are otherwise engaged.

Depends on the horse. I used to ride this one named Tobias who steered like a wheelbarrow. He turned his mind off the minute you put the bit in his mouth. He'd walk straight into a tree if you didn't steer him around it.

On the other hand, he never spooked, never panicked, and never tried to think for himself and rush back to the barn. So, there was an upside!

I can't imagine on what basis anyone would look down on someone in petroleum engineering.

YAG has the sense of it. I know plenty of people for whom admitting that you were a petroleum engineer would be like admitting that you worked at Auschwitz.

Posted by: Grim at March 10, 2014 12:14 PM

"On the other hand, he never spooked, never panicked, and never tried to think for himself and rush back to the barn."

A friend of mine had horses when I was growing up, so I had the opportunity to ride any time I went over - which was frequent as she was, at the time, my best friend. The Arabian they had was so taken with their quarterhorse mare - we thought he thought she was his mom - when they bought him that he would stay with her come hell or high water...or bushes...or branches.... I can't tell you how many times I was limb-lashed riding him when my friend would take off with the mare. Another friend when I was older also had horses. She had a horse that would walk into walls, trees, etc. with or without a rider.

Fortunately, this was a trail horse for a back-country wilderness guide, so he was very well-trained. It was a truly memorable ride, and all we did was ride and talk.
0>;~]

Posted by: DL Sly at March 10, 2014 01:21 PM

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