12 June 2016

Our World In Data: “What Men and Women Want in Marriage”

A rare opportunity to see how values have changed was discovered by Boxer et al (reference below) who compared surveys in which people were asked what they seek in a spouse. I took the first and last survey results reported by the authors and visualized it in the chart below: It allows us to compare the relative importance of these traits in 1939 and seven decades later. The big winner is ‘mutual attraction – love’ which now ranks as the most important aspect for both women and men. But also ‘Education, intelligence’ and ‘Sociability’ rose in importance. The relative losers are ‘Good Health’ and at the very bottom ‘Chastity’.

Max Roser

Another interesting – and surprising! – change: the ‘Desire for home, children’ metric gained importance for men, jumping from place 7 to 4 , but is less important for women, coming down from place 6 in 1939 to 9 in 2008. Probably less surprising for women, since in the context of emancipation they have more freedom to pursue careers and other interests, so the relative importance of children declined. The best explanation I can think of for men is that fewer people marry, so those who do are more interested in founding a family and home as well.

What Men and Women want in marriage
Data from Christie F. Boxer, Mary C. Noonan, and Christine B. Whelan (2013): Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension. Journal of Family Issues May 30, 2013. doi: 10.1177/0192513X13490404. Online here.

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