Predictions about immigration and attractiveness

Sebastian Flyte, an unusual commentator, wrote:

A man's mate value is tied to status – if he
emigrates he throws away whatever mate value he built up in his life. A
girl's is tied to youth and beauty. These are carried with her luggage.

He has a point.  Female migrants should on average be prettier, ceteris paribus, than those who stay in the old country.  That means holding constant income, education, and some other variables.  Female immigrants should find it easier to marry into the receiving country's population than do male immigrants.  From a public choice point of view, the women in the country receiving the immigrants should be more suspicious of liberal immigration policies than should be the men in the receiving country.  It is up for grabs whether male immigrants should be handsomer or uglier than average, relative to their home country populations, again holding constant some relevant variables.


Not sure where the point is there. Status is quite portable these days (my education & finances don't stay behind when moving), and even your source seems to believe that women consider looks when making "mating decisions".

I'm not sure this argument cuts it. My own experience, as well as those I've talked to, is that "foreign males" are generally found more attractive than native males and that men generally have much greater luck with women on foreign soil. Many claim they are deemed "more attractive" by women when abroad than in their own countries.

But it might be the case that this attraction is only short-term and therefore does not have any effect on marriage statistics.

Male status is also tied to being confident and at home in his surroundings, something that immigration disrupts at least temporarily.

I think far more important than this kind of folk-Darwinism model are cultural issues. For one, men are much more willing than women to class down in marriage. So to the extent that immigrants tend to be lower social class than the native-born this tendency will make it easier for female migrants to marry than male migrants.

The status of the male immigrant might not transfer to the native population like a female immigrant's might.

But the male immigrant status may go up among the people he left behind (now wealthier, demonstrates drive).

And the status of the male immigrant may transfer well within the group of immigrants in the new country.

Would Evelyn Waugh have asquiesed in describing Sebastian Flyte as "an unusual commentator"? Flyte's flow of observations was unstoppable, if untrite, unconstrained and "incorrect".

The problem with this analysis is that those males most motivated to emigrate are those who have low status in their original countries but believe they have the capability to achieve higher status in the new country. And chances are, too, that the country they are emigrating to is less traditional and class-bound than their home country -- in the new country, nobody knows (or cares) who their (low status) relatives may have been. For these reasons, I'd expect male immigrants to achieve higher status in their new countries than they would have staying in their old ones.

I agree with the chain migration arguments above, but add that if someone views that their status doesn't immigrate with them, they are likely to stay behind, while someone who views a chance for increasing their status is more likely to move, and to take actions that increase their status in the new country.

I'd also argue that a woman with beauty can succeed on that beauty (Ceteris paribus) just as well at home, right? so why bother to emigrate? While the woman without beauty is going to need something else to succeed, so she might as well try her luck elsewhere.

I think this hints at inbuilt bias in the US(because theyre greatest etc!) towards assuming immigration is all pull rather than push. Historicaly most immigration was fueled by lack of prospects at home rather than increased prospects abroad. Typified by eldest son remaining at home on the farm etc and younger ones getting the boat. Similarly this would lead to the more attractive/elegable females marrying localy and the remainder leaving. A quick historical plot of e.g. Irish GDP and net immigration would show its push driven. (the chosen destination would then be pull driven but this is second order)

Congratulations on this post's thinly veiled sexism, heterosexism, and lookism, brought up via a link overwrought with straight up misogyny. This is lazy economics, which fine for a short post to start discussion, but not when it's based on down right offensive preconceptions.

Ceteris parabis, angie.

Are city girls prettier the country girls? Are the returns on pretty, in terms of potential income, greater in cities.

Were girls in the frontier prettier then girls back east? Doesn't seem to have been the case.

Doesn't pretty hold an advantage in both locations? Why should the returns on looks increase in the new location?

Perhaps if larger numbers of males migrate out of the home country, the pretty girls may see a drop in their value depending on their cross elasticity with less attractive girls.

Immigrant females historically have been more likely to become prostitutes, especially when they lack informal support networks. Is that a function of looks, pretty migrants are more actively recruited?

Female Irish immigrants found it much easier to fit into upper income society, but as domestics not wives. Like African American female workers, they were more accepted by the larger society.

Do attractive women of color have an easier time marrying across color lines. I would think so. Is that seen by pretty women as a big advantage,

If women are moving from a more class conscience society to a more open society, perhaps looks alone can offer returns that the home country fails to offer.

But this is all wild theories without a lot of substance.

From a public choice point of view, the women in the country receiving the immigrants should be more suspicious of liberal immigration policies than should be the men in the receiving country.

There are occasional attacks on the mail-order bride business. I haven't seen statistics myself (don't know where to locate them), but I've heard that the divorce rates are much lower between for U.S. male/ foreign wife marriages.

This is an application of the so called 'Roy Model' of migration. It is not so much that pretty girls should emigrate as people whose particular traits earn a relatively higher rate elsewhere who migrate. For example, high human capital people migrate from places that tax income heavily (e.g., Scandinavia). individuals with low human capital migrate from places where the return to education is low (e.g., Mexico). More to the point, there is little migration to the US by poor Scandinavians or rich Mexicans.

So where is the return to beauty highest or lowest? High as a starlet or model in NY, LA, Milan or Paris. High as eye candy or a groupie in Miami or Rio? Definitely lowest in the more rural provinces (e.g., Sicily or Kansas).

From a public choice point of view, the women in the country receiving the immigrants should be more suspicious of liberal immigration policies than should be the men in the receiving country.

Except that young men have led virtually every immigration/expansion wave in history, and only after establishing far more than a beachhead have they requested women come back as well. Consequently, one could expect the opposite: men will be far more suspicious of immigrants, which seems to map to the United States' experience from what I perceive anecdotally.

Female migrants should on average be prettier, ceteris paribus, than those who stay in the old country.

Wait a minute. Emigration is still quite costly, and both pretty and non-pretty woman can expect some kind of payoff in the new country for expending those costs. If we assume pretty women do better than non-pretty women in whatever good things life offers both in the origin country and in the destination country, prettier women will emigrate more only if the increase in payoff for prettiness in the new country is higher than the increase in payoff for prettiness in the old.

I think relying on "ceretis paribus" is a bit of a cop-out.

Although Tyler does not explicitly state this, I think part of the appeal of the argument in his post is that sex and mating are fundamental aspects of human life. By "reducing" attitudes on immigration to calculations of sexual self-interest, he seems to be moving past superficial appearances and getting to the true nature of things.

When confronted with the bazillion other variables that complicate human society, he can always retreat and say, "Ceteris paribus." But the hidden claim here is that the marginal effect is important, not just non-zero.


Yes, sheer beauty is why so many long-legged Mexican-immigrant lovelies go straight from the streets of East LA to being Hollywood starlets, like, uh, ... well, I'm sure there have been a few although I can't quite think of any at the moment. (There are American-born, half-Mexican starlets like Jessica Alba.)

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study of sizes, "Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults: 2003-2005," the average Hispanic woman 20-39 is 5'2.5" tall and weighs 155 pounds versus 5'4.1" tall and 148 pounds for a non-Hispanic white woman.

The average BMI for a 20-39 year old Hispanic woman in the U.S. is 27.7 versus 24.5 for a non-Hispanic white woman, the average waist size is 36.1 inches for a Latina versus 33.5" for a white woman.

Wow. Roissy and Steve Sailer. This is quite the successful blog post.

@Crazyfish: No offense intended, but as Roissy and Steve Sailer could tell you, on average, black men are more attractive than black women. White men are just less likely to find black women appealing than white women/black men.

Someone, one of the Megans IIRC, summarized a truth nicely: looks will get you attention, but not devotion.

You can actually go much further than "pretty", you can say that migrant girls are likely to be taller, more promiscuous and... have smaller breast. Indeed, you rarely migrate on your own before the age of 18, by that time other girls in your village have been married for a while, often with older man.

You can assume that to be able to seduce a man, a girl needs to have her menarche asap. As a result the sooner you stop growing, the sooner you'll marry but also the smaller you'll get. Earlier menarche goes as well with higher levels of oestrogenes, so bigger breast.

On the contrary migrant girls are likely to have a qualitative approach to reproduction (since they marry later, they can't compete quantitatively with those who have their first pregnancy at 14). In this case, the quality of the mate is particularly important and one ought to try before choosing. Hence their common reputation for being promiscuous.

Beyond the theory, we see in West Africa for instance a high correlation between 1. urbanization and HIV seroprevalence (proxy for promiscuity) and 2. urban growth and the spread of the disease (the figures are here:

There are some seriously goofy assumptions both in your post, Tyler, and in comments. Glad to see you left it as an exercise for the reader whether male immigrants would be, on average, better looking than those who stay home.

Having grown up in "middle of nowhere" America, having moved away as soon as possible, and having kept in idle contact with those who remained behind I'd say that the key determinant for both men and women for leaving is ambition, not looks. That seems to be the case for those men and women who made the same journeys from their own middles of nowhere.

Conversely I'd say the key determinant for both men and women who stay is local family or community connections that either provide opportunity (friend of parents fast tracks their employment) or obligations ("we need you to run..." or "who will take care of...")

Oral tradition from my father's side of the family, and saved letters from my mom's suggest those ancestors who weren't fleeing religious persecution at home (protestant Swedes in the 1800s, Puritans and other schismatics in the 1600 and 1700s) did so for the same reason I left the middle of nowhere: you can only grow so many potatoes, catch so many fish, or deliver so many newspapers before you conclude that it's better to risk death by starvation where life is interesting than to risk death by boredom where it's not. How one whole gender might be less immune than the other to intolerable boredom, or the prospects of something more, is beyond me.

I also agree with Thomas Themel. How, exactly, do people who migrate abandon all skills they might have acquired? Are, for instance, stone masonry, carpentry, farming, fishing, common labor, not to mention (on the other end) math, physics, music, art, computer, and supervisory skill really so non-transferable? Is the allure of being big fish in small ponds so strong for the ambitious that only the unskilled and unmotivated migrate?

Also if it was really the case that youth and looks were the only value women bring with them wouldn't it make just as much sense that they'd be considered just as desirable within the establishment in their points of origin? (Anecdotal evidence from my erstwhile middle-of-nowhere cohort suggests that no, looks is no more major determinant of migration than are skills.)

But rather than speculate I think I'll run your proposition past an academic blogger, Laura Agustín, who researches international migration (and blogs at "Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex") to see what she thinks. I think it's a dumb idea but a great conversation starter. So thanks!


"Female immigrants should find it easier to marry into the receiving country's population than do male immigrants." US data bear out this prediction. For a wide range of immigrant groups, immigrant females are about 4 times as likely as immigrant males to marry into the receiving population. Does anyone know whether this holds for other countries?

Some evidence from migration within Germany: More young east german women have been moved to the west than young east german men. Result: For every 100 young men living in East Germany there are less than 90 wome (Study "Not am Mann" Berlin-Institut 2007). The intra-german migration is special because there is no legal barrier to migrate from east to west, but an economic gap between the both parts.

I'll plead guilty to forgetting about "white privilege", but I'll argue that your counterexamples demonstrate my point. By "status", I'm referencing in particular the social connections that allow one to act freely where others would be hindered. You point out that merely being a certain flavor of exotic can be enough to overcome this effect. In particular, you indicate that in these circumstances, the locals will make false assumptions about the prior status of the immigrant.

Convicts would be another example.

Can someone please explain why the girls that are migrating are going to be prettier? It sounds like someone thinks only the rich move country which in some social construct means prettier people migrate, but it's not true. Refugees make up a large group of migrants, and last time I checked, a face battered by opression and starvation was not so pretty.


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