Study shows so-called cougars, sugar daddies more myth than reality

May 06, 2013

Despite the popular image of the rich older man or woman supporting an attractive younger spouse, a new study shows those married to younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages.

" is an outlier," said Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. "Our results call into question the regarding differently-aged couples."

The study, published online last week in the Review of Economics and Statistics, showed that those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills.

The researchers did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be to see these effects. It simply found that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators.

The economists examined U.S. from 1960 through 2000 looking at age at first marriage, completed education, occupational wages, and earnings. They also used the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to measure and the National Longitudinal Survey of (Add Health) to gauge .

Their findings largely reflect the different networks that lower or higher ability individuals belong to.

Those attending four-year colleges interact more with people of about the same age. After graduation, they and their peers often enter careers with upward mobility at a time when people tend to marry.

By contrast, those who attend or work in low-skilled jobs with little chance of advancement are more likely to interact with more widely diverse age groups, increasing their chances of marrying someone significantly younger or older, the study said.

"It really depends on who your social network is," Mansour said. "People with lower earning potential are in networks that are more age diverse."

The study also found that men married to younger or older spouses made less money than those married to women of a similar age.

In the 1980 Census, for example, men married to women eight or more years younger or older earned on average $3,495 less per year than men married to women no more than a year older or younger.

At the same time, women married to differently-aged spouses made more money than their mates but that was due to working more hours, not earning higher wages.

A battery of tests conducted in high school measured verbal, math and arithmetic reasoning skills. Those married to differently-aged spouses scored lower on the tests. Men with spouses at least eight years younger scored on average 8.4 points less than those who married women of a similar age. Women had less drastic drops in their scores.

Physical attractiveness was determined by interviewers conducting the Add Health survey. They rated their subjects on a scale of one to five with one being `very unattractive' and five being `very attractive.'

"Overall, the estimates indicate that individuals married to differently-aged spouses are less attractive than those married to similarly-aged spouses, with the possible exception of men married to older women," the study said.

Mansour said the study shed light on how and why people marry who they do.

The researchers also found that despite Hollywood portrayals to the contrary, there is nothing new about older women searching for younger men to marry.

"We really didn't find any evidence of a new cougar phenomenon," he said. "Although their share has slightly increased over time, cougars have been among us since the 1960s."

The real trend, he said, is that people of similar ages are increasingly marrying each other.

"The benefits from marriage might be changing. When you are close in age you can do things together," he said. "You can have children when both parties want to, retire at the same time and grow old together"

Explore further: Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006

Related Stories

Divorce hurts health more at earlier ages

Jan 30, 2012

Divorce at a younger age hurts people's health more than divorce later in life, according to a new study by a Michigan State University sociologist.

Health and marriage: The times they are a changin'

Aug 11, 2008

The health of people who never marry is improving, narrowing the gap with their wedded counterparts, according to new research that suggests the practice of encouraging marriage to promote health may be misguided.

More baby boomers facing old age alone

Apr 16, 2012

Startling new statistics from Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) paint a bleak future for the largest generation in history, the baby boomers, as they cross into old ...

Recommended for you

Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006

Sep 16, 2014

The poverty rate in the United States has dropped for the first time since 2006, bringing a bit of encouraging news about the nation's economy as President Barack Obama and Congress gear up for the November elections.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bredmond
not rated yet May 06, 2013
This article is presented wrong. Sugar Daddies and Cougars have nothing to do with marriage. The relationship is purely sexual. But anyway, that is not the point of the article.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) May 06, 2013
This article is presented wrong. Sugar Daddies and Cougars have nothing to do with marriage. The relationship is purely sexual. But anyway, that is not the point of the article.
The difference between a prostitute and a wife is simply time duration of commitment
DruidDrudge
1 / 5 (6) May 06, 2013
This article is presented wrong. Sugar Daddies and Cougars have nothing to do with marriage. The relationship is purely sexual. But anyway, that is not the point of the article.


Pretty sure its about money ;)
Maggnus
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2013

Pretty sure its about money ;)


The amount of it, and the duration over which it is paid! :)
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2013

Pretty sure its about money ;)


The amount of it, and the duration over which it is paid! :)
If you examine the opportunity costs prostitutes must necessarily endure, they are charging no more than a wife would but in a shorter timeframe. Moreover the prostitute cannot have a gainful, faithful relationship so her compensation is for the lack of a gainfully employed man in her life rather than sex per se. She must pay all life expenses herself. As for the man, he is ahead financially using only prostitutes as the financial costs of courtship and marriage are many times greater