Does Having Children Make a Woman Less Attractive? The Relationship between Parenthood and Subjective Ratings of Attractiveness

Stephen Cranney, University of Pennsylvania

Fertility decisions have a variety of costs for women that are not shared by men. However, one cost that has remained unexamined is the effect on the physical attractiveness of the mother. Physical attractiveness is associated with a well-documented variety of positive outcomes. I use Wave III and Wave IV of the Add Health Survey to investigate whether number of children affect physical attractiveness and, if so, the mechanisms through which they do so. I find that, controlling for her prior interviewer-rated physical attractiveness, having children decreases a woman’s probability of being rated as having above average attractiveness, with the change mostly attributable to changes in grooming rating. While increase in BMI also has an effect, it is not large. There is no such effect for males, indicating that the difference lies in gendered factors such as differential responsibilities or the effect of pregnancy on the body.

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Presented in Session 6: Fertility, Health and Well-Being