“Trophy Wives” Are Rare in Real Life

Most people marry someone who has a similar degree of attractiveness and success as they do

Photo: Bernd Vogel/Corbis

Trophy wives proliferate movies and television shows, but have you ever actually met one? According to new research, this stereotypical arrangement of young, highly attractive women with older, less attractive but highly successful men is not as common as the entertainment industry leads us to believe. In real life, trophy wives actually seem to be exceedingly rare. 

To get to the bottom of the trophy wife myth, relationship inequality researcher Elizabeth McClintock analyzed attractiveness ratings, professions and socioeconomic backgrounds of couples from a nationally representative survey. McClintock combed the data for statistical correlations, looking for hints that successful men pair with attractive women.

She found, however, that attractive women weren't necessarily pairing with rich guys—they were pairing with attractive guys. Like tends to attract like. The biggest statistical predictors of whether two people would get together were how similar they were in their educational background, race, attractiveness and religious views. 

“I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women,” McClintock said in a statement. “So, on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking — perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces, nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc." 

Oftentimes, McClintock says, what appears to be a trophy wife is actually a highly successful women who also just happens to be both attractive and married to an equally attractive doctor. 

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