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Appearance and Education in Marriage Mobility

Glen H. Elder, Jr.
American Sociological Review
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Aug., 1969), pp. 519-533
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2091961
Page Count: 15
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Appearance and Education in Marriage Mobility
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Abstract

The relative influence of attractiveness and educational attainment in marriage mobility was investigated in a longitudinal sample of women from middle- and working-class families. The women were born in the early 1920s, were intensively studied during the 1930s, and most of them participated in at least one adult follow-up. During adolescence, middle-class girls were significantly higher on physical attractiveness, groomed appearance, and IQ than girls from the working class. The two groups did not differ on status aspiration or academic aptitude. In the total sample, girls who became upwardly mobile through marriage were characterized by physical attractiveness, a desire to impress and control others, high aspirations for the future, and an avoidance of steady dating. Intelligence and academic aptitude were not directly predictive of marriage mobility, although both factors influenced the adult status of the women through their educational attainment. Among women from the working class, physical attractiveness was more predictive of marriage to a high-status man than educational attainment, while the relative effects of these factors were reversed among women of middle-class origin. Social ascent from the working class was also related to sexual restraint and a well-groomed appearance.

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