Using data from 1.8 million online-daters from 24 countries, a study published in Human Nature, has found that “resource-acquisition ability” or “competency” (as indicated by levels of education and income), increases levels of romantic interest received. Resource-acquisition ability improved the romantic attention received by men by almost 2.5 times that of women, a sex difference that was found in each country studied. However, even highly competent men received less attention than women with low levels of competency, reflecting an attraction inequality between the sexes.
Although both sexes consistently value certain characteristics such as kindness and intelligence in a mate, a robust sex-difference in the mate-preference literature is that women value socioeconomic status in mates more than men do. The study found that cross-culturally, women (compared to men) prefer mates with financial prospects, while men prefer attractive, younger mates, signalling cues of fertility. Females are also attracted to males with behavioural traits indicative of ‘’potential’’ resource-acquisition ability, such as ambition. If males become unemployed or lazy, females are more likely to end the relationship.
The study revealed stark sex differences, e.g., for a person of average competency i.e., some college education and earning approximately £30k a year, men received approximately eight IOIs, while women received more than three times this amount with 26.
Given the premium that women place on socioeconomic status when selecting a mate, we should expect that higher levels of competency would enhance the appeal of men’s profiles more than women. This is indeed what the research found. High competency men (Master’s degree-level earning around £76k) received almost 90% more IOIs on average compared to around 40% for women.