A study conducted in China shows that a woman’s physical attractiveness significantly increases her bargaining power within her household. Income, self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships were identified as possible channels through which physical attractiveness affects a woman’s power in her household. The study was published in frontiers in psychology.
Physical attractiveness or beauty is the degree to which a person’s physical attributes are considered aesthetically pleasing. It is a combination of physical characteristics that do not change significantly, such as: B. facial features or body shape, and others that are variable, such. B. Grooming, clothing, make-up, posture or facial expression.
Attractiveness is of great importance to many people, especially women. For example, women’s beauty and skin care products occupy a leading position in the overall value of the online shopping market in China. Many people spend a lot of money on cosmetic surgery to improve their physical attractiveness.
Physical attractiveness influences other people’s social ratings. Studies have shown that doctors rate patients who are physically attractive more positively. Physically attractive people are preferred partners when dating. In the labor market, studies show that attractive job seekers are more likely to be interviewed and hired by companies. Studies have also shown that people tend to attribute many positive traits to attractive people, a cliché known as “what is good is beautiful.”
The author of this study wanted to examine the impact that a woman’s beauty has on her bargaining power within her household. The idea behind the study is that women’s beauty, considered by the author to be one of their most important social assets, is likely to improve their bargaining power within the household. This could be achieved through higher income, self-esteem, or better interpersonal relationships.
The researchers analyzed data from the China Family Panel Studies, a biannual national survey conducted by the Peking University Institute of Social Sciences in conjunction with the University of Michigan Survey Research Center. The data set used in this study included responses from 6,728 participants submitted in 2010 and 2012.
The wife’s bargaining power within the household was assessed using the questions “Who is the decision-maker in important family matters, including household spending, household investment and savings, home buying and construction, high-priced consumer goods?”. and “Who is responsible for household finances?”
At the end of the assessments, the interviewers gave their own assessment of the respondent’s appearance using a rating scale ranging from to very unattractive To very attractive. This was used as a measure of physical beauty. The study author also examined respondents’ assessments of income (in Chinese yuan), self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-value Scale Survey), and interpersonal relationships (“How is the interpersonal relationship between you and others?”)
The results showed that only 15.68% of the women surveyed made important family decisions. “In line with the reality of Chinese society, husbands are responsible for important family affairs, while wives play the role of supporting their husbands,” the study author explained. Husbands were also, on average, better educated than their wives. Women reported better interpersonal relationships.
When attractiveness is accounted for, the results showed that as women become more physically attractive, the proportion of wives who are decision-makers in the family also increases.
In the group of women rated 1 (very unattractive) for attractiveness, there were no family decision makers. In the group of women whose attractiveness was rated 7 by the interviewers, this proportion was 21.27%. Similarly, in the group in which women’s attractiveness was rated as 1, 82.35% of husbands were sole decision makers in the family. This percentage was 58.73% in the group in which the attractiveness of women was rated 7.
Further analysis showed that women who received higher attractiveness ratings also had higher income, better relationships, and higher self-esteem. These were also linked to their household bargaining power, leading the author to suggest that these might be channels through which physical attractiveness leads to better bargaining power.
The study sheds light on the role that physical beauty plays in social relationships. However, it should be noted that the data are all from a single time point and additional studies are needed to verify whether the same relationships would be observed at a different time point. All participants were Chinese, so the results may reflect characteristics of Chinese culture at the time of the study and may not be the same for people from other cultures.
Furthermore, it was based on self-reports, and it is possible that participants reported family relationships in line with assumed social norms, but the reality of family decision-making is different. It’s also possible that interviewers perceived wealthier women and those with more self-esteem as more beautiful.
The study “Women’s Physical Attractiveness and Household Bargaining Power” was authored by Zhongwu Li of Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou, China.