Playboy's Hugh Hefner may just be an exception! The popular image of the rich older man or woman supporting an attractive younger spouse is more of a myth than reality, a new study has found.
Researchers from University of Colorado Denver found that those married to younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages.
"Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples," said Hani Mansour, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver and study co-author. It found that those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills.
The researchers did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be to see these effects. It simply found that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators.
The economists examined US Census Bureau data from 1960 through 2000 looking at age at first marriage, completed education, occupational wages, and earnings. They also measured cognitive skills and physical attractiveness.
Their findings largely reflect the different networks that lower or higher ability individuals belong to.
Those attending four-year colleges interact more with people of about the same age. After graduation, they and their peers often enter careers with upward mobility at a time when people tend to marry.
By contrast, those who attend community colleges or work in low-skilled jobs with little chance of advancement are more likely to interact with more widely diverse age groups, increasing their chances of marrying someone significantly younger or older.
The research also found that men married to younger or older spouses made less money than those married to women of a similar age. A battery of tests conducted in high school measured verbal, math and arithmetic reasoning skills. Those married to differently-aged spouses scored lower on the tests.
Men with spouses at least eight years younger scored on average 8.4 points less than those who married women of a similar age. Women had less drastic drops in their scores.