Women Want Heavy Men

Men typically avoid tall women, while women have a preference for tall men. Men have a strong distaste for women with a large BMI [Body Mass Index], while women tend to prefer heavier men.

Huh?  That last phrase got my attention.  This is from a model in the latest AER predicting who responses at an online dating sight.  It controls for:  age, height, education, income and their differences in the couple, and also divorce, kids, looks, race, and religion.  And its not just that women dislike light men, the benefit of weight continued all the way up the scale; they found no significant effect of BMI squared, and only weak effects of its difference.  No wonder men are much less eager to diet!

Interestingly, folks with kids are far more eager for a match, and income preferences were quite linear – no diminishing returns!  More:

This paper is based on as sample of 3,004 men and 2,783 women located in Boston and San Diego. The sample was chosen from 22,000 users of an online dating service. … We observe all user activities over a period of three and a half months in 2003. … The estimation is based on a sub-sample of users who state they are single, divorced, or describe themselves as “hopeful.”  Furthermore, we eliminate users who indicate that they joined the site to start a “casual” relationship and only keep users who want to “start a long-term relationship,” are “just looking/curious,” “like to make new friends,” and users who state that “a friend put me up on this.” …

As expected, we find that the users of the dating service prefer a partner whose age is similar to their own. Women who are single try to avoid divorced men, while divorced women have a preference for a partner who is also divorced. Similarly, single men avoid divorced women, but divorced men have no particular preference to date a divorced woman. Both men and women who have children prefer a partner who also has children. Members with children, however, are much less desirable to both men and women who themselves do not have children. Also, women seeking a long term relationship prefer a partner who indicates that he is also seeking a long term relationship, but no such preference is apparent for men. Looks and physique are important determinants of preferences for both men and women. The utility weights on the looks rating variable differ only slightly across men and women.  Also men and women have a stronger preference for mates who describe their looks as “above average” than for average looking members, and they have an even stronger preference for members with self described “very good looks.” Regarding height, we find that men typically avoid tall women, while women have a preference for tall men. Men have a strong distaste for women with a large BMI, while women tend to prefer heavier men. The estimates of income preferences show that women place about twice as much weight on income than men. There is little evidence for preference heterogeneity here—the absolute value of the distance coefficients is small, and hence own income matters only slightly in the evaluation of a partner’s earnings. Regarding education, we find that both men and women want to meet a partner with a similar education level. While women have an overall strong preference for an educated partner, but also have a relatively small tendency to avoid men who are more educated than themselves, men generally shy away from educated women. The estimated same-race preferences show that both men and women have a preference for a partner of their own ethnicity. Finally, we find that both men and women have a preference for a partner of the same religion.

I were on the market, I’d be looking to nab one of those tall high-educated women other men don’t want.

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  • nazgulnarsil

    highly educated women in the medical field seem fairly desperate. its kind of ridiculous.

    • Sdfsdf

       Not half as desperate as men in the unemployment field…

  • Neal W.

    BMI doesn’t take into account body fat %. High BMI could mean very muscular with little body fat or high body fat with little muscle.

  • Vladimir M.

    Robin Hanson:

    And its not just that women dislike light men, the benefit of weight continued all the way up the scale; they found no significant effect of BMI squared, and only weak effects of its difference. No wonder men are much less eager to diet!

    Note however that BMI is an extremely bad measure for men, since it conflates bone, fat, and muscle mass. A man in the “normal” BMI range (18.5-25), or at least its lower part, is likely to be scrawny. On the other hand, a well-built muscular man’s BMI may well be in the “overweight” range, and a huge body-builder could easily register as “obese.” For some body shapes, BMI is especially inadequate — if I reduced my weight to the middle (let alone bottom) of the “normal” BMI range, I’d look like a famine victim.

    Therefore, you shouldn’t interpret this as indicating that women don’t mind men being fat. What this study has “discovered” is that “heavier” men — including those with “overweight” BMIs — can be really fat, but they can also be well-built and muscular (or something in between that’s not too bad, like strong guys who have a bit of a gut). Whereas men in the greatest part of the “normal” BMI range almost always look like weak and emaciated stick-figures.

  • Jaffa_Cakes

    “I were on the market, I’d be looking to nab one of those tall high-educated women other men don’t want.”

    Recalling your recent posting on here of female feedback to one of your courses (has that post been removed now? I can’t find it), I think you may be disappointed by just what “high-educated” really results in, among the American female population.

    A certain some-might-say “renegade” citizen has a thing or two to say on this matter.

  • Vladimir M.

    Robin Hanson:

    I were on the market, I’d be looking to nab one of those tall high-educated women other men don’t want.

    You seem to be underestimating two factors. First, you’re much more likely to be rejected by a woman if you’re shorter than her, and rejections tend to be especially humiliating in such situations, so men prudently avoid the likely unpleasantness. Second, people snicker a lot at couples where the woman is noticeably taller (which is in part why women don’t like shorter men to begin with).

    On the other hand, if you’re a very tall man, it really gives you an enormous advantage on the market.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Overcoming Bias : Women Want Heavy Men -- Topsy.com

  • jz

    If a woman is stating a preference for a heavier man, it is because she, herself, is heavy.

  • Greg Conen

    If the personals report height and weight, but not BMI, then a preference for low weight would be seen as preferring both low BMI and low height.

  • floccina

    Some posters seem to be thinking that the article says more than it does. They controlled for looks, and one the things that makes really fat people unattractive is a loss of symmetry. All the article is saying is that all things being equal women prefer bigger heavier men. At some point though too much fat causes looks not to be equal.

    • http://robertwiblin.wordpress.com Robert Wiblin

      It’s possible that controlling for ‘looks’ was only a control on facial appearance or something like that. The paper only says they used photos to assess looks, but not what of.

      But yes – I think this is the main problem, even more than the muscle/fat one identified.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Memo to Robin’s wife: minimize temptation by keeping tall, educated & available women away.

    Jaffa_Cakes: You are thinking of this post.

  • Rich Rostrom

    BMIs of some leading professional athletes:

    29.5 Albert Pujols
    31.0 Ryan Howard
    34.3 Pablo Sandoval
    37.4 Prince Fielder

    Pujols, Howard, and Fielder hit 138 home runs last season. Sandoval hit only 25 HRs, but with a .330 average. By BMI, Pujols is “overweight” verging on “obese” and the others are “obese”.

    I wonder how this survey would have turned out if they queried West Africans; they regard female obesity as attractive. And I’ve run across some black American men who say they appreciate “a little extra junk in the trunk”.

    • Vladimir M.

      This website shows photos of a bunch of ordinary folks along with their BMIs:
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/77367764@N00/sets/72157602199008819

      Judging by these pictures, the standard BMI categories describe women fairly accurately (though this would probably be different for very athletic women, which don’t seem to be represented here). For men, however, these categories are clearly wildly unrealistic.

  • Rich Rostrom

    OK, that sample is biased toward firstbasemen. However, when I ran BMI for the entire 25-man roster of the Cincinnati Reds, I found that only 5 were not overweight, and 3 were obese.

  • John Maxwell IV

    If being tall makes a woman less desirable, why do women wear high heels? I think the picture is somewhat complicated. Maybe tall women also receive more attention and are more intimidating.

    These OKCupid stats on mate racism don’t seem to strongly suggest that people prefer those of their own race.

    • nazgulnarsil

      perhaps it is advantageous to seek even taller men. short men, afterall, would be turned away while tall men would not.

    • gwern

      > If being tall makes a woman less desirable, why do women wear high heels?

      Do they in general? Most of the women I’ve noted wearing high heels have been quite short; any tall women wearing high heels would stick out, I would think, as being even more extreme and a little absurd.

      • Violet

        That is a dilemma.

        Many men consider high heels sexy. But being too tall is not considered sexy (an exception to this are models).

        Thus for tall women it can become a game of “how do I wear high looking heels that are not actually very high” :)

      • Ewrwerwer

         It has never been about beauty. It’s about control.

    • Doug S.

      Supposedly, high heels change the way women stand and walk, creating an effect that is considered attractive.

  • V

    I like “heavier” men – and by that I mean men who work out and have toned, rather muscular bodies. There’s nothing like rock-hard abs and nice biceps. :) I wouldn’t date a regular skinny man – and I especially would never date a fat guy, lol. I’m just not attracted to them. Most women I know prefer toned men. I only knew two young women who liked fat guys, but they were fat themselves. They preferred toned guys, too, though. With fat guys, they just looked for a “cute face.”

  • floodplain

    When they find that ex. women like tall men, but men don’t like tall women, they don’t distinguish who is driving the preference.

    The results are consistent with

    Women liking tall men but men don’t have a preference in height for women. Men avoid women taller than them thinking they stand little chance.

    Men like short women but women don’t have a preference in height. Tall women avoid men shorter than them thinking they stand little chance.

    Or both.

    Ditto for weight.

  • Sasquatch

    As a tallish, sturdyish woman, I already feel a bit outsized among women; I don’t want to feel outsized with my romantic partner too. It’s not an absolute requirement that the man be heavier, but it is definitely a preference.

    (I remember changing a flat tire with a very slender ex, who weighed what I did, but at several inches taller: he couldn’t get the old tire unstuck, but I could. It was a very awkward moment.)

  • getoveryourselves

    Stop being shallow, selfish, greedy and dictatorial. Love the person for who they are and what’s inside. Beauty and looks fade with time. Mass media has screwed everyone’s brains up. It has managed to morph what is ideal and has told everyone that if they do not acquire the ideal that they have failed or settled for less. What a load of crap. We’ve come a long way from when cavemen used to drag their women by the hair where ever their next conquest took them, but sometimes I think we have come way too far to a point where we get in our own ways most of the time. Make it simple not complicated.

  • http://www.uni.bielefeld.de/biologie Harald Jockusch

    I would like to get the reference of the original scientific paper on mating and size selection in humans

    H. Jockusch

  • mark

    The estimates of income preferences show that women place about twice as much weight on income than men.
    There is little evidence for preference heterogeneity here—the absolute value of the distance coefficients is small, and hence own income matters only slightly in the evaluation of a partner’s earnings.
    Meaning that women dont care what they make but are twice as concerned about what he makes.
    you think that makes twice as much difference in the size of BMI compared to the size of the guys pay check.
    little man little check. ok
    bigger man bigger check. better
    does that say anything about the size comparision.

  • GetOverIt

    A lot of good men are short, women, get over it! Relationships are about love, and if you can’t understand that only what you two have matters, then you aren’t deserving of a relationship. I’ve been married for 20 years. I’m a 5’5″ man and I married a 6’4″ woman. It was awkward, and was originally a joke. Did it work out? yes! Was it awkward? At first, then we got used to tuning people out. Stop excluding men on the basis of height, andd you’ll find that there are many more good men available than you think there are! Also, women who exclude men merely on height make these short “mean” men, because they never give them love or a chance, so they come to hate and despise people who are tall and people who are in love and people who are happy. You create these monsters; it is nothing inherent in the short men themselves!

    • Jhjhgjhgjg

       Is there a single thing on the planet for which women can’t be blamed? God forbid we hold someone accountable for their actions….

  • Linda

    I came across this post unwittingly in the midst of finally realizing that male-female relations have not changed much over time. Even today these relations remain quite Freudian, as Betty Friedan, author of “The Feminine Mystique” postulates. My grandmother once told me that women in her day had to marry, it was their only choice. Their lives were tied to the home and bearing children. Heterosexual men still seem to prefer women who are dependent and childlike. Perhaps these qualities are somehow equated with being a good wife and mother. I’m one of those tall, high-educated women in the medical field. I’m neither dependent or childlike. I am a woman of logic and reason. The more education I pursue, the happier I become and the less interest I receive from men. It’s been interesting, if somewhat disappointing, to realize that in becoming a complete person I have also become “undesirable” as a partner. Despite this, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life is better than I could have ever imagined and I’m sure my grandmother would be proud.

  • Jesper Östman

    Just came across this study. According to it heavier men also earn more. The authors think it can be explained by attractiveness ideals.

    http://dept.econ.yorku.ca/~vincent/download/paper/vhipvk_obesity_eur_new_46.pdf

  • Modern Casanova

    Don’t agree, lets face: women like handsom guy like we like hot girls. For another approach look http://Women-Looking-For-Men.org which can help you even to find some hot chick or older cougar

  • Lady Amazon

    I’m a tall (6’2″), graduated-level educated, large BMI (weight-lifting plus cushion), divorced, religious mom. The odds are not in my favor.