Study Busts the Myth on Cougars and Sugar Daddies

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New research reveals that despite the frequent Hollywood headlines, the “cougar” and “sugar daddy” trends don’t appear to be catching on.

On the contrary, the study found more people of similar ages are marrying each other.

Published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, the results also show those who marry someone significantly older or younger have lower cognitive skills, less education and are less attractive compared with those who marry their peers.

Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Denver, co-authored the research with Terra McKinnish, an associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples,” Mansour said.

The study explored so-called May to December pairings, both with older women and men. Researchers used U.S. Census data from 1960 to 2000, looking at age of first marriage, education, occupational wages and earnings.


“Those who marry someone significantly

older or younger have lower cognitive skills.”

The 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth was also used to measure cognitive skills, while attractiveness was gauged using the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health.

The data showed income may be an indicator, with men married to younger women earning less than those married to a spouse roughly the same age.

While women married to younger men were found to earn more than their spouses, researchers suggest this is more due to working longer hours rather than higher overall salary.

Cognitively, men with spouses at least eight years younger than themselves scored lower in verbal, math and arithmetic reasoning skills. Men married to similarly-aged women bested them on average by 8.4 points in the testing.

Researchers did not provide an exact range of how much older or younger a partner would need to be to see the effects. However, they did note the greater the discrepancy, the higher the negative indicators.

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