Short men stay married longer than tall men — but tall men still “marry up”

Vanity and preoccupations with height have an unexpected effect on long-term relationships' power dynamics

Topics: Marriage, relationships, attraction, study, Research, Height, Income inequality, equality, Sexism, Sex, Love and Sex, ,

Short men stay married longer than tall men -- but tall men still "marry up" (Credit: Shutterstock/Julia Ivantsova)

The taller the man, the shorter the marriage — perhaps because the women in those marriages are better educated and make more money. According to the preliminary findings from a team of NYU sociologists, height and attractiveness play an unexpected role in long-term romantic relationships, which seems to run contrary to workplace trends — but still manages to stay in keeping with traditional gender norms. There’s a big difference between short guys and tall guys when it comes to their marriages, and it might have a lot to do with the struggle for power.

The new working paper indicates that tall men and short men exhibit distinct coupling patterns, both in terms of the spouses they choose and how long they stay together. Short men tend to get married later and at lower rates but to stay married longer, typically to women of lower educational attainment and income level than themselves. Tall men, on the contrary, tend to pair off with older women who have achieved more education and make more money — which the researchers argue is actually a result of the taller men’s “high relationship value,” presumably making them more appealing to these more educated, higher paid women.

You Might Also Like

That means, it would seem, that short men have something to make up for. Quartz breaks it down well:

On the income side, if you think of marriage as a market and tallness as a valuable commodity, short men “make up” for lacking it by earning more money. If you take the model further, the authors write, the results indicate that by “the perspective of relationship exchange models, this indicates that the tallest men exchange their attractive attribute (height) for better-educated spouses, while short men are unable to do so.” …

“This further confirms an existence of height-based status exchange in which short men compensate for their lower physical status with higher proportional earnings, while tall men appear more likely to use their status to attract women with higher relative earnings,” the authors write.

So while more attractive people — i.e. taller men — tend to make more money on average than their less attractive counterparts, that’s not always how it goes in marriage. This isn’t necessarily a good thing (although it is, as Quartz points out, a total oversimplification of mate-choosing). The disparities between partners’ education and income levels signifies a reassertion of traditional gender norms, specifically in the relationship patterns for shorter men.

Even if taller men are making less money in their relationships (and therefore “have less power”), they are still ostensibly reaping specific social benefits as a result of their height. Men who do not reap those same benefits clearly seem to be attempting to assert power in a different way, within the context of their romantic relationships — which, again, are totally oversimplified in this breakdown. Still, it’s a unique — if somewhat troubling — long-term trend, indicating that marriages and long-term opposite-sex relationships might not be quite as egalitarian as we thought.



Jenny Kutner

Jenny Kutner is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on sex, gender and feminism. Follow @jennykutner or email jkutner@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...