Do men prefer beauty over brains?

My male friend who shared the news with me had a slight smirk on his face. “Dan, the Brain, just married a dummy. Attractive but not very smart,” he volunteered. Was he giving me the message that being intelligent may not be a great asset when it comes to finding a partner?

“Highly intelligent and powerful women don’t score as well as the less successful when it comes to the marriage market,” says psychologist Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan. Her study with 328 undergraduate students concludes that men actually prefer less accomplished women.

And what is the primary reason for that male preference? Brown states that men believe women in important jobs or women who are big earners are more likely to cheat on them because they have more opportunities. “Female infidelity is a severe reproductive threat to males, but only when the emotional investment is high,” says Brown. In other words, “a preference for subordinate partners does not apply to short-term affairs.”

Constance L. Shehan, University of Florida professor of sociology supports the findings: “well-educated women are definitely less prone to get married.” As more women have achieved higher educational levels, their earning capacity has risen. Consequently, their need to be married for economic security becomes less important. For males that can be a plus; financially secure women bring considerable economic benefits to the partnership. But it also means that moneyed women have greater opportunities to step out of the relationship at their choice.

Men historically have owned the balance of power in a relationship because of economic superiority. Controlling the dollars gave them a sense of security and power. As women are increasingly able to secure their own financial future, the power balance in the relationship is changing. That may be very unsettling to men. It may also be a compelling emotional factor to make them choose more dependent partners - women without the skills or education necessary to be financially secure on their own. For these females gaining financial security through marriage is an essential component of the relationship.

On the other hand, women who are big earners or have accumulated assets through other means, such as heritage, often become magnets for men who seek a better lifestyle or financial security. Many women are not entirely comfortable with providing the primary financial support to the relationship.

“I want the man in my life to have at least financial parity with me,” says a single widow in her early sixties who inherited substantially. “Otherwise I just lose respect.” A well-heeled career girl in her fifties who’s divorced doesn’t consider a candidate unless he has more money than she has. “I’m modern in all ways but this one,” she admits.

Money and power sharing in the relationship are clearly changing. Many traditional men still feel threatened by women who are highly educated and earn a lot, while women are wrestling with finding the right balance between gaining wealth and/or power and, at the same time, keeping their femininity intact.

A recent study undertaken by four English universities concluded that a 16-point rise in a man’s IQ makes him 35 percent more likely to marry. For women the results revealed the opposite. As her IQ rises by 16 points, she is 40 percent less likely to marry. Research aside, the right formula is the one that works for us.

Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products. Visit her at