What Women Want: 1939 v. Today

Some things never change; others — well ...

By The Editors

What Women Want: 1939 v. Today
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21 April 2016

While 2000’s What Women Want did its best to offer a few insights into the desires of the fairer sex desires, the involvement of sexist rant-connoisseur Mel Gibson rendered most potential learnings null and void.

Luckily, we have other ways to gain insight into what makes women tick. As in: scientific ones. And by we, we mean sociologists.

Using data that was collected from heterosexual women during separate sampling periods in 1939 and 2008, a team of researchers was able to examine how 18 traits women look for in a husband have changed in importance over time.

After the “Measuring Mate Preferences” paper was released, economist Max Roser, creator of the Our World in Data blog, summed up the research team’s findings in this chart.

Here’s how things have changed — and stayed the same — over the 69 years between surveys.

Hurrah! Chastity declined in importance more than anything else.
Sadly for your grandfather, chastity was the tenth most-important trait women were looking for in 1939. Thankfully for you, it was the least important thing for women polled in 2008.

Being a decent and generally kind human being never goes out of style
Having a dependable character and pleasant disposition as well as being able to provide emotional support and inspire feelings of love and attraction were top-five important traits women were looking for in both subsets.

These days, you need to be educated ...
In 2008, having an education and being intelligent was No. 4 in importance for women. In 1939, it didn’t even make the top ten (No. 11).

… And good looking
While women in 1939 ranked good looks quite low in importance (No. 14), it was one of the biggest climbers on the list, rising all the way up to No. 8 in the 2008 polling.

Homemaking skills may be overrated
While having the ability to cook, clean and keep yourself neat was important in 1939, those were much less sought-after qualities by 2008. A desire to have children also decreased in importance. (Interestingly enough, in the male equivalent of the study, that desire rose in importance for men seeking women.

Social image via Loew's Inc.

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