A Theory for Why Latvian Women are Beautiful

by on September 2, 2009 at 7:39 am in Economics, Science, Travels | Permalink

Recently a colleague returned from a trip to Latvia and remarked on how beautiful the women were.  A discussion ensued at which it was agreed that women in a number of other countries were also very beautiful but markedly less outgoing than the Latvians.  As you may recall, beautiful Latvian women like to parade their beauty. My colleague further informed us that the latter event was not unique, having witnessed something similar himself.

Is my colleague's observation a mere statement of prurient preference?  Does this kind of thing belong in a family blog?  Don't worry, at Marginal Revolution we never serve our prurience without a little theory. 

Sociosexuality is a concept in social psychology that refers to how favorable people are to sex outside of commitment.  It can be measured by answers to questions such as "I can
imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying "casual" sex with
different partners" (agree strongly to disagree strongly) or "Sex without love is ok," as well as with objective measures such as the number of sexual partners a person has had.  A low score indicates subjects who favor monogamous, long-term, high-investment relationships.  A high score indicates subjects more favorable to sex for pleasure's sake alone. with less regard to commitment.  On average, males have higher sociosexuality scores than females but sociosexuality scores for females vary widely across countries.

Why might female sociosexuality scores vary?  One hypothesis is that in cultures with low operational sex ratios (the number of marriageable men/number of marriageable women) female sociosexuality will be higher.  The argument is that when the relative supply of males is low, competition for mates encourages females to shift towards the male ideal, i.e. when supply is scarce the demanders must pay more. (Note that this theory can also explain trends over time, e.g. Pedersen 1991).

Ok, where does this get us?  Well in Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe, Schmitt (2005) surveyed some 14,000 people on sociosexuality and he correlated female sociosexuality with the operational sex ratio.  Here are the results:

Sociosexuality

Notice that Latvia has one of the highest rates of female sociosexuality in the 48 nations surveyed and the lowest sex ratio.

Thus, the theory is that Latvian women appeal more strongly to the male ideal because the number of marriageable men in Latvia is low relative to the number of women.  Is it any wonder that my colleague found the Latvian women beautiful?

Andrew September 2, 2009 at 7:46 am

I guess we forgot to ask the now obvious question: “What type of parade?”

Marian Kechlibar September 2, 2009 at 7:54 am

P.S.: It is puzzling that Morocco and Turkey score higher on sociosexuality than Japan. I would expect Islamic societies to be somewhere at the bottom of the chart.

Hey, Morocco even scores higher than my country (the Czech republic). Given the level of promiscuity here, this is a bit strange.

Or, maybe the answers from Morocco reflect unfulfilled wishes of the youth, not “real action”.

jaduncan September 2, 2009 at 8:18 am

Another theory: The high degree of males killed in WW2 in Eastern Europe (and in the Baltics especially) led to intense selection pressures amongst the women when competing for husbands. Ugly women were somewhat out-competed, leading to a higher average beauty.

capitalistimperialistpig September 2, 2009 at 8:32 am

Hmmm – unclear on the concept. I guess I meant are the excess males strangled at birth?

mdb September 2, 2009 at 8:55 am

Baltic women are definitely more beautiful in general, the best looking women I have ever dated were from Lithuania. A couple other areas with a disproportionate share of beautiful women are the horn of Africa and Japan.

8020 September 2, 2009 at 9:17 am

I visited that part of the world this year, and I actually thought Estonian women were more beautiful than their Latvian counterparts, although I don’t think most men would have any complaints about any Baltic country.

Also interesting to me, as an Aussie, is how much higher the ‘sociosexuality’ is for women in New Zealand when compared to Australia. My experience with Kiwi girls suggests that this is indeed true, but I wonder why this might be, since our nations are so similar in other ways.

Jason Swadley September 2, 2009 at 10:11 am

Interesting post. Does this data really support the “beauty” claim though? Sociosexuality would seem to involve signaling (to indicate sexual willingness, etc) to be effective, whereas beauty is something observed at a distance, without any interaction or observation – show me a photo of a Latvian woman and I’ll tell you if I think she’s beautiful or not, but will have no idea about her sexual openness.

I’d attribute the extra beauty in Latvia (and Brazil, etc) to 1) either having many of the traits we find beautiful to be generously distributed in the local gene pool or 2) a mental bias toward thinking the women are always beautiful in countries other than our own.

reason September 2, 2009 at 10:12 am

I don’t see that you have addressed why the women are beautiful(objective criteria???) at all, only why they like to flaunt it. I can imagine if the likelihood of breeding is more closely related to looks then a higher ratio of females would have the desired effect. But are the men so choosy, or so faithful?

anony September 2, 2009 at 10:18 am

First of all, is the y-axis female attitudes? Why label the X-axis 80 to 110? No, seriously, why? We would never tolerate this in engineering. Is it sloppiness or is such cryptology encouraged in other sciences?

==

The relevant variable is a sex ratio, and sex ratios balance at 100 for genetic reasons (almost 50/50 a baby is born a girl, though slightly higher odds of a male, and a higher mortality rate for male babies that varies with income of the country). So, it makes sense to compare the correlation against 80 to 110 as that’s the relevant variation in the variable.

GabbyD September 2, 2009 at 10:29 am

i notice the lack of latin american countries in the scatter. they have reputedly some of the most beautiful women in the world. the reigning ms universe is latin american.

does that fit the theory?

maharbbal September 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

Amuzingly enough I just moved in a city with a very very low sex ration (Utrecht, NL). It’s a service-oriented town with a large student community, so as could be expected, there is a clear majority of females (and most of them quite young). For a male point-of-view it seems like a buyer’s market (even more so as a large number of the females are temporary migrants, i.e. students from all over Europe, and this should positively affect the “velocity of girls”).

For the sake of it over lunch this afternoon I counted the people passing in front of me and segregated them by gender and I reach the rough but still amazing 3:10 ratio.

However the reverse is true. The girls are beautiful enough (if you are into blonds) but most of them are invoved in relationships at a distance. Moreover, for a reason I cannot figure yet, they are extremely anti-male and tend to violently fight off any flirtatious attempt. I tried to explain them that theoretically they should be more promiscuous, but it failed miserably.

Jason Swadley September 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

JH, agreed. But then it seems like we’re measuring something other than beauty, such as “attractiveness” or “desireability” or “seductiveness.” Subtle differences, but differences nonetheless.

Peter September 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

Another theory: The high degree of males killed in WW2 in Eastern Europe (and in the Baltics especially) led to intense selection pressures amongst the women when competing for husbands. Ugly women were somewhat out-competed, leading to a higher average beauty.

It’s an intriguing theory, and certainly sounds correct, but consider:

1. Britain suffered huge losses of young men in WWI, but unless I’m quite mistaken there was no big upsurge in feminine beauty a generation later (despite there being anecdotal evidence that many women never married due to all the missing men.)

2. Brazilian women are famously beautiful, yet their country has had scarcely any war deaths.

happyjuggler0 September 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

I’m inclined to think that you need to throw out the number of women who are past their “use by” expiration date for this hypothesis to be able to point to the data and extrapolate.

18 years old in 1945 is 82 years old today. Thanks to unfortunate location, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, I strongly suspect that there are an awful lot of gray haired women from the WWII era, and precious few men.

On the other side of the curve, I see a lot of east Asian countries, which arguably have similar cultures in general. Extrapolating causation from correlation in such an intertwined group is fraught with peril.

Taking those two outlying groups out of the data sample, and you have a squarish blob with precious little signal.

Zamfir September 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

Is it just me, or is that graph a good example of a sample without any obvious pattern at all?

Peter September 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

Amuzingly enough I just moved in a city with a very very low sex ration (Utrecht, NL). It’s a service-oriented town with a large student community, so as could be expected, there is a clear majority of females (and most of them quite young). For a male point-of-view it seems like a buyer’s market … However the reverse is true. The girls are beautiful enough (if you are into blonds) but most of them are invoved in relationships at a distance. Moreover, for a reason I cannot figure yet, they are extremely anti-male and tend to violently fight off any flirtatious attempt.

New York City is quite similar. Its population includes a high percentage of young single women, substantially outnumbering their male counterparts, yet there are few if any places where it’s more difficult for men to meet and date women. Singles events at clubs typically attract ten men for every woman and “Men seeking Women” personals ads outnumber their counterparts by a dizzying margin. Almost any woman under age 40 who isn’t Gorgon-ugly has her pick of highly desirable men.

Clearly, as NYC’s and Utrecht’s experiences indicate, looking at mere numbers and percentages can be very misleading.

Brian September 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm

This is really unconvincing research.

First of all, women have every incentive to lie in surveys and the bias is different in different cultures so the results really don’t tell us what the women are thinking.

Second, what women say they will do in sexual and romantic situations and what they actually do is famously different and no correlation of any kind has been established in any research so far.

Third, sluts are not less discriminating. (Google Roissy sluts are not less discriminating) Just because women are saying they are more open to casual sex does not mean they are more open to casual sex with any given man. In fact, if you are shy, faithful, reliable, good with numbers, or otherwise beta you are more likely to persuade more sexually conservative woment o sleep with you than easy ones. It’s a paradox well explained by Roissy. If you’re looking for the best place to improve your odds with women, consider the contries on the bottom of the graph.

Fourth, I know the Mexican national census numbers and the US Census numbers well. I have used them professionally. Mexico has an operational sex ratio at least five points lower than the USA, not higher as shown in the graph. I don’t know where the data comes from but it may well all be garbage. Certainly the USA and Mexico numbers are.

Fifth, more than 25% of Mexican young men were killed in the revolution of 1910 by war, starvation, disease, and other causes. That’s even worse than the Russian and Baltic numbers from WWII. Mexican women have never been famously beautiful and their quality as enthusiastic partners has been debated.

ortega September 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Translation.

Sociosexual: unable or unwilling to hold a compromise.

jimi September 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm

All women are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others.

Mariann September 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm

my opinion (as latvian girl) is that We have really low number of nice guys who will be worth to date, don’t even thinking about marriage. So contest to get them are bigger and we try to look nice, at least.
For example, in full bus is sitting at least 6 young guys and enough of middle age men. When comes old lady with stick, nobody let her sit. Same caracteristics we feel also in relationships, that’s why a lot of girls have foreign boyfriends. I also met my boyfriend during my studies in France and i discovered different side of men can be.

farmer September 2, 2009 at 2:40 pm

fwiw, most deaths in ww2, by leaps and bounds, were civilian. in places where war actually occured, ie the nebulous regions between moscow and berlin, i strongly suspect there were no more likely female death than male death or vice versa. England and the US, who exported young lads, maybe, but not the Eastern Front land

ugh September 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm

they try to look nice to pick up foreign men to get in to rich countries… just like that commentator above who got in to france.

Duncan September 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I’d also be willing to bet any amount of money that the data for Bolivia and Taiwan are way, way off.

JSK September 2, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Amuzingly enough I just moved in a city with a very very low sex ration (Utrecht, NL). For a male point-of-view it seems like a buyer’s market(…) However the reverse is true.

Funny. I live in Utrecht as well (but im Dutch), and have discussed this point with male friends many, many times. I also – like every somewhat female starved guy – have a theory about it. I noticed that in towns where the sex ratio is closer to one, girls are more friendly. I think that where you have fewer of one sex, members of the other sex exoticize the members of the other. So where you have many guys (or in groups of which a high proportion is male) they amongst themselves create a fantasy ideal type of women which with very few *real* women can compete with. Because they simply dont know any real women. Back to Utrecht: because there are many female-only contexts (during lecture, at the workplace… i had dinner here last week with a group of 4 girls, no guys) women here don’t meet guys often. So they approach every encounter with one of the opposite sex as something special. And if the guy is nothing special – lets face it, 90% of us are nothing special, at least to the average girl – its a big dissapointment. Just my two cents.

PS Listen carefully to Clemens Kool: he’s a very, very, very smart guy.

Jānis Bērziņš September 3, 2009 at 3:25 am

I’m from Latvia and agree with the guy from Ukraine. Latvian girls are also somehow naive. They would say they are confortable to go to bed with several partners outside comittment without never intending to do so. Anyway, ATTENTION POTENTIAL TOURISTS:

Note that an ‘unrestricted’ sexual strategy is not equated to promiscuity: “unrestricted people, although more willing to engage in sex without love and commitment, still prefer being involved in stable, serially monogamous relationships (unlike promiscuous people)” (Simpson, Wilson & Winterheld, 2004)

About Brazilian girls, I lived there. Most of them are not very beautiful, although very sensual. Maybe sensuality boost beauty? Latvian girls are very sensual.

ikke September 3, 2009 at 6:09 am

Dear people. Would you please stop kidding yourselves and look at the data before making shitloads of judgments.
Sex distribution in percent by age groups in the Latvian population in 2009 according to Latvijas Statistika (csb.gov.lv?lng=en):

Age—–Males—Females
0-4—–51.1—-48.9
5-9—–51.0—-49.0
10-14—51.4—-48.6
15-19—50.9—-49.1
20-24—50.9—-49.1
25-29—51.0—-49.0
30-34—50.6—-49.4
35-39—49.9—-50.1
40-44—49.0—-51.0
45-49—47.6—-52.4
50-54—46.4—-53.6
55-59—44.1—-55.9
60-64—41.8—-58.2
65-69—38.6—-61.4
>70—–30.0—-70.0

See the problem? The overall distortion towards females means lonely old ladies, but it doesn’t matter for this survey. The survey was conducted among students at the Latvian University of Riga. Need I say more?

For fuck’s sake, stop playing academic games of explaining matters you don’t no shit about.

Alfons September 3, 2009 at 9:35 am

Because of cheap alcohol?

Guerrilla Billionaireâ„¢ September 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm

This piece is useless without pictures.

What’s more, you over-looked Czech women who tend to be stunners. Croatia is also starting to crank out the hotties now that communism is gone.

Charles Scones September 3, 2009 at 9:41 pm

1) I had a Latvian girlfriend in college, and yes indeed, she was both a real beauty to look at and had all the attitudes that are the young college male’s ideal — I need not say any more. All my friends were jealous, and still are when recalling the old days.

And her girlfriends in the Latvian community were even more so than her, somehow. Yes, I always had a sense that there was competition among them in this way, and that she was trying to keep up with them.

(But these were US-native Latvians, though very much tied into a Latvian community. How this cultural behavior carried over into the US, where hordes of US guys were lusting after them so the supply-demand equation was reversed, I will leave to the theoreticians to determine.)

2) A great many of these same Latvian young beauties carried the “babushka gene”: 15 years later they looked like their own grandmothers. Maybe it was all the alcohol, I don’t know.

Artis September 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Incidentally, this explains why the Latvian economy has taken a nosedive: “Men who spend even a few minutes in the company of an attractive woman perform less well in tests designed to measure brain function than those who chat to someone they do not find attractive. This leads to speculation that men use up so much of their brain function or ‘cognitive resources’ trying to impress beautiful women, they have little left for other tasks”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6132718/Men-lose-their-minds-speaking-to-pretty-women.html

Charlie September 4, 2009 at 6:07 am

The tough conditions over the last 100 yrs mean only the fit, healthy and strong survive. In particularly, the cold winter conditions requires a particularly srong physical condition. In the former communist countries there was a high level of sports and ballet participation by girls. Fit and healthy people tend to be more attractive than fat, lazy slobs with a sullen expresion on their faces. Sport increases the endo morphins and if one feels good, one tends to look better.

Kate September 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

at slightly racist anony above…ever heard of IR dating? Or do you think women should limit themselves to dating men of the same colour?

Latvian girl September 14, 2009 at 4:56 am

It is as simple as the fact that Baltic women care about their looks :)

Kristine November 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I’d say in every country Your could find beautiful girl. It depends of Your !
I am from Latvia and I have travelled around the whole Europe. I have to agree that in Baltic states, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Ukraine girls are lil bit better looking than other countries! But like I said every country has its beauty!
As a woman I know what I’m saying, coz I have my rate scale! ;)

Klavs December 8, 2009 at 6:38 am

There is a serious flaw in the data: The sex ratio in Latvia is low only after the age of 45, because life expectancy of men is about 10 years lower than that of women. There are actually more young men than young women. That means by share numbers women have larger choice when they get ready for the first marriage or search for sexual partner and when they are below 45. You obviously talk about beautiful YOUNG women in Latvia – not beautiful and sexually attractive mature/grannies, right? Grannies, especially after 65 definitely have problems in finding a partner. So they should be the promiscuous ones. But – alas – I have never seen a hint of that.

Bird toys March 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

So, while women may answer questions related to sex for pleasure, probably worded from a liberal academic pov, while maybe what they really want is opportunities to have kids, or win husbands.

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Quite December 31, 2010 at 6:07 pm

NZ girls are goers and that’s why we love them so, even if they are blessed with Kardashian-esque arses.

As for the disparity between NZ girls and Aussie girls I would venture the explanation that they make themselves less attractive when they open their mouths and let rip with that godawful Strine accent

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