October 24, 2006
Why I don't care if my wife is smart or not
[Justine Pasek, Miss Universe 2002, was born to a Polish software engineer and a Panamanian homemaker. She plans to become an engineer as well. This could be my daughter someday.]
I was recently directed to an opinion piece on whether smart or high-status guys these days are continuing to look for a trophy wife as they have been doing for the past.... well, the past. If the piece is to be believed, then smart or high-status guys have begun to seek an intellectual / status equal. I'll bet that a significant cause of this trend is that there has finally been reached a threshold value of the proportion of the female population that is both hot and smart. Let's face it: guys care more about looks than brains, or else they would chase 40-something CEOs, senators, and private practice doctors, rather than the best-looking girl they can manage. On Bizarro-World, there may exist a lucrative franchise called "Senators Gone Wild," but here on Planet Earth, it's college coeds and MILFs that guys salivate over.
So why the shift toward marrying an intellectual or status equal? It must be that there is no longer such a difficult trade-off of looks vs brains when choosing a wife: you can have your cake and eat it too. Of course, these traits are pretty much independent of each other, so in order for the looks-brains correlation to increase, there must be a strong degree of cross-assortative mating between hot wives and smart or high-status husbands. This will tend to shuffle alleles predisposing to high intelligence and those predisposing to good looks into the same families: though there will be variance, we expect that the daughter of a trophy wife and nerd or alpha male will be both prettier and smarter than the population average, despite regression toward the mean. If this continues long enough, the looks vs brains dilemma will diminish, and smart or high-status guys can both go with their bestial instinct by choosing a hot babe while also maintaining plausible deniability in the face of censorious feminazis by choosing a smart girl. Not long ago, I wrote a post at GNXP on how this is especially pronounced among upper caste South Asians, which of course drew lots of boos from the blondes-uber-alles contingent.
But even if I don't amount to an alpha-male by the time I marry -- and I doubt I will -- I'll still be smart enough to offer brainy genes to a potential wife, though not genes for the alpha-male personality and physique. So I probably won't be able to get a girl who's both hot and smart -- I'm back to the trade-off -- but that's no worry, since it's the easiest decision in the world. If I married a smart but homely girl, my kids would be pretty smart but not very outgoing or good-looking. The daughters would be cursed, and the sons would only have the longshot that I currently have of attracting a hottish girl based on brains alone, not high status. I want to make sure my kids have it as easy as possible, though, so if I chose a hot but not exceptionally smart wife, my kids would have the best of both worlds. They wouldn't be as smart as me (that sounds arrogant, but you know what I mean), and not as hot as their mom, but being hotter than average and smarter than average will make them more desirable as mates than being nerdy and dull-looking. To be more exact, consider the Breeder's equation:
This tells you how far above average the children will be for some trait, based on the average of the parents. R is the response to selection, or how high above the population average the kids will be. S is the selection differential, and it says how high the parents' average is above the population average. Then h^2 is the narrow-sense heritability, which is a measure of how much variation in a given trait is accounted for by the additive effect of genes. In plain English, it says how much the kids will "snap back" to the population average. And clearly R is just the expected value of the children's phenotype: non-additive effects of genes and chance factors may buffet it this way or that, but when you're planning, you can really only go with what's predictable ahead of time. The h^2 for "physical attractiveness" is about 0.64 -- but like height or IQ must actually be a bit higher (only one study has attempted to quantify it), and h^2 for adult IQ is at least 0.7.
Now, I've never had my IQ properly tested, but from the SAT-to-IQ conversion scales I've seen, and the few unofficial online IQ tests I've taken, I'd say a conservative lower-bound would be 130, or 2 SD above the mean (hardly mind-blowing), while a conservative upper-bound would be 145, or 3 SD above the mean. Though rare in the population, this level is probably average for academics and intellectual blogger types, in the same way that a height range of 6'3 to 6'6 is probably average in pro basketball, though rare overall. Let's say I really trade off looks against IQ and choose a wife whose IQ is a perfectly average 100. Then our mean IQ would be from 115 to 122.5, or 15 to 22.5 points above the population mean of 100. So take this S of 15 to 22.5 and multiply it by the h^2 for IQ of 0.7 and you expect our kids to be 10.5 to 15.75 points above the mean, i.e. have IQs of 110.5 to 115.75. Rough estimates of the IQ needed to complete university-level education clock it in at about 115, so our kids could probably graduate college, even if they couldn't become partners at law firms or win a science Nobel Prize. Also recall that the h^2 used was a lower-bound; it's probably closer to 0.8, in which case our kids would be from 112 to 118, again good enough to go to college.
Turning to physical attractiveness, I'm not chopped liver, but I recognize I'm no handsome devil either. I notice younger girls looking at me as if they liked what they saw (though girls my own age focus more on height and status than looks, so not so many glances from them), and when I uploaded a body pic to craigslist out of curiosity, one girl said I was above-average, another said "I wouldn't kick you out of bed," and a gay guy thought I was hot (then again, guys will tell anyone they're hot if they think it'll increase their chances of getting laid). Seems an extreme thing to have done, but if you want to plan things out, you have to know what you have to offer rather than be self-deluded. So, no salivating, but no rude awakening either -- then I figure I'm at about the 70th percentile, which is about +0.525 SD. Since I sacrificed IQ, let's assume my wife is +2 to +3 SD -- we're not talking a one-in-a-million babe here, but literally a 1-in-43 babe or at most a 1-in-1000 babe. Then our mean is from +1.26 to +1.76 SD, multiplied by the more reasonable h^2 for looks of 0.7 gives an expected value of +0.88 to +1.2 SD, or between the 81st to 89th percentiles.
In conclusion, then, our kids would be expected to reach +1 SD for both IQ and physical attractiveness, meaning they could graduate college and be good-looking enough to attract the opposite sex when they're adolescents, when looks make a hell of a difference in determining one's social status (or as we called it then, one's "popularity"), which will tend to give them a huge confidence boost at a key point in development. Good looks will continue to be valuable to daughters, and though they won't be valuable to sons past their college years, the confidence they receive from being looked at will serve them well even when females stop paying attention to looks and focus more on height and status. And while they probably won't cure cancer or compose a symphony, they'll likely be smart and educated enough to get white-collar jobs and marry others whose IQ and attractiveness level is close to their own.
It all sounds horribly superficial, but hey, we all want the best for our kids, and I might as well be smart enough to know what matters in being a father to smart, good-looking children -- screw all those Baby Einstein toys and $30,000 per year pre-schools, it's genes that matter (plus uncontrollable environmental noise). Obviously this is the case with good looks. I'll cover the brains part of the equation, and she'll cover the good looks part. However, this plan does make a crucial assumption -- that the female in question is focused more on children and a family than on herself. I couldn't take this approach with someone who didn't want kids or wanted to delay child-rearing as long as possible, preferring instead a tall, rich trophy husband whom she could show off to her girlfriends to incite their envy, thus inflating her own self-esteem. I couldn't seal the deal with someone who was concerned more with status and living a glamorous lifestyle, mostly at my expense. I need someone who will say, "OK, so he didn't use his noggin to become a rich doctor or executive, and thus he doesn't earn enough for me to buy whatever furniture I desire, but I want kids now, and I want the best for them -- imagine my looks and his brains!"
That pretty much excludes the educated classes of Western Europe and the Anglo offshoot countries, since these females are more concerned with status and glamor than raising kids. That's fine, their business and all, but not my target audience. Enter the Third World bride! Ha, am I actually going to become one of "those guys"? There was a recent NYT article on foreign brides, and just look at this guy. He's not that smart, rich, young, or good-looking, and he managed to find a Colombian fiancee who's hotter than he could ever dream of here (not to mention that at 40 years old, he definitely couldn't hope to find a 23 year-old that attractive here). You figure if, compared to the average guy using these services, I'm 10-15 years younger (at 26), 15-30 IQ points smarter, better-looking (again, this isn't arrogance if you look who I'm comparing myself to), and though currently low-status, I'll be halfway respectable as an academic or other researcher someday. And once I imbibe a little alcohol, which counteracts my introversion, I can actually cut a little rug.
So you figure it wouldn't be out of the question to become engaged to one of the prettiest girls in a Colombian town, a country known for hot girls. The big concern, of course, is the average IQ of the country. Lynn's estimate of the mean IQ of Colombia is 89 (and 90 for Peru), but as a developing country, the "true" mean is probably a bit higher -- the non-white Hispanic American mean is somewhere in the low 90s -- and would be revealed if they were transplanted to a more hospitable environment like the US. But again, because I'd have quite a leg up on the competition, I could likely find a girl who was above-average in smarts for her country, namely the white American average of 100 I used in the calculations above. Hell, given the awful state Colombia is currently in, there might be some pretty, 110 IQ girl who wants something better for herself and any kids she wants to have. If she were 110, me 145, and h^2 = 0.8, the expected IQ of our kids would be 122 -- good enough to enter an intellectual or smarmy jerk profession or the arts! Also, if she were from Colombia, her looks would probably be at the upper-bound I used above of +3 SD -- and that's not even to speak of potential hybrid vigor effects our children might enjoy. Hey, the kids wouldn't have to look as good as Jessica Alba or Freddie Prinze Jr. -- anything close would work as well!
So am I totally nuts? Note: you can't argue with the numbers, since the equations are not controversial, and I chose realistic values. I mean, as concerns the rationale of targeting groups who want families rather than a sexy zip code, and so on.