Objectives: Several empirical studies point out the relevance of individuals’ physical attributes—such as height, weight, beauty—in the labor market. In the same way, physical characteristics may affect lifetime prospects through their impact on the selection of a partner in the marriage market. We analyzed to what extent an individual’s height and weight (arguably affecting physical attractiveness, as documented in many studies) are related to lifetime economic outcomes through the marriage market, investigating whether individual height and weight affect the probability of marrying with a “high-quality partner,” measuring quality as the partner’s educational attainment or as the partner’s prospective labor income. Methods: Using a large Italian dataset of married (and cohabiting) couples—the 2005 Italian Health Conditions Survey which provides information on health conditions, individual characteristics, and socioeconomic variables—we estimated separate OLS and Ordered Probit regressions for females and males. Since weight might be endogenously determined, to avoid any estimation bias we also estimated a reduced form equation in which predetermined height affects directly and indirectly (through BMI) physical attractiveness and, as a consequence, the choice of a partner with a given educational attainment. Results: Our findings suggest that height is a desirable trait in mating selection affecting the partner’s socioeconomic characteristics: we found that taller individuals tended to mate with more educated partners, controlling for their own educational level—to take into account the tendency for assortative mating for education—and for other personal traits such as age, geographical residence, city size, and the presence of health problems. On the other hand, we showed that individuals with higher BMI were married to partners with lower levels of education. The results also provide evidence of non-linearity in the relationship between height and educational attainment of the partner. These findings are confirmed for both males and females, but being taller seems to be more relevant for males, while being thinner is more important for females. We have also found that taller and thinner females and males tend to be married with partners earning higher labor incomes. These findings were robust to a number of checks. Conclusions: Our findings confirm that the physical characteristics that an individual brings to the marriage market influences the outcome in this market: physical attractiveness is exchanged in the marriage market for a higher educational attainment and the ability to earn a higher labor income.

Trading Height for Education in the Marriage Market

PONZO, Michela;
2015

Abstract

Objectives: Several empirical studies point out the relevance of individuals’ physical attributes—such as height, weight, beauty—in the labor market. In the same way, physical characteristics may affect lifetime prospects through their impact on the selection of a partner in the marriage market. We analyzed to what extent an individual’s height and weight (arguably affecting physical attractiveness, as documented in many studies) are related to lifetime economic outcomes through the marriage market, investigating whether individual height and weight affect the probability of marrying with a “high-quality partner,” measuring quality as the partner’s educational attainment or as the partner’s prospective labor income. Methods: Using a large Italian dataset of married (and cohabiting) couples—the 2005 Italian Health Conditions Survey which provides information on health conditions, individual characteristics, and socioeconomic variables—we estimated separate OLS and Ordered Probit regressions for females and males. Since weight might be endogenously determined, to avoid any estimation bias we also estimated a reduced form equation in which predetermined height affects directly and indirectly (through BMI) physical attractiveness and, as a consequence, the choice of a partner with a given educational attainment. Results: Our findings suggest that height is a desirable trait in mating selection affecting the partner’s socioeconomic characteristics: we found that taller individuals tended to mate with more educated partners, controlling for their own educational level—to take into account the tendency for assortative mating for education—and for other personal traits such as age, geographical residence, city size, and the presence of health problems. On the other hand, we showed that individuals with higher BMI were married to partners with lower levels of education. The results also provide evidence of non-linearity in the relationship between height and educational attainment of the partner. These findings are confirmed for both males and females, but being taller seems to be more relevant for males, while being thinner is more important for females. We have also found that taller and thinner females and males tend to be married with partners earning higher labor incomes. These findings were robust to a number of checks. Conclusions: Our findings confirm that the physical characteristics that an individual brings to the marriage market influences the outcome in this market: physical attractiveness is exchanged in the marriage market for a higher educational attainment and the ability to earn a higher labor income.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11588/630401
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