Your Face Is Your Fortune: Does Adolescent Attractiveness Predict Marriage and Sexual Activity Later in Life?

Amelia Karraker, Iowa State University
Kamil Sicinski, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Donald Moynihan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A growing literature documents the importance of physical attractiveness in romantic, marital, and sexual relationships, but little is known about how attractiveness functions in intimate relationships in later life. We use over 50 years of data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to examine the connections between adolescent physical attractiveness and intimate relationships in later life. We find that adolescent attractiveness facilitates sexual activity by increasing the probability of having access to potential sexual partners, but attractiveness is not related to sexual activity among those with partners. In addition, we find some evidence of higher payoffs to attractiveness for women than men. These findings highlight the importance of relationship context and gender for later life sexual activity and begin to explicate the social pathways through which factors across the life course influence sexual activity in later life.

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Presented in Session 175: Couple Dynamics and Relationships in Later Life