Why Women (And Men) Are Biologically Programmed To Be Gold Diggers, According To Research

For many, marrying for money has a particular appeal.

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A 2017 study of how wealth affects attraction revealed that, yes, how attractive men and women are perceived to be by potential romantic partners is indeed impacted by knowledge of their financial status, but not in the way you may think, and certainly not for the reasons many have long believed.

Long story short, men and women are driven at equal rates to be, for lack of a better term, gold diggers, as research shows they both prefer having casual relationships with rich people.


On a positive note, however, their reasons for this are far more noble (or at least, understandable) than we're likely to assume.

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The study was published in the latest edition of Evolution and Human Behavior and was conducted by researchers at Swansea University in the UK.


The team of researchers put 75 heterosexual men and 76 heterosexual women (151 people total) through a 3-step process to learn more about what makes potential love interests more or less attractive in regard to short-term vs. long-term relationships.

The experiment went like this:

1. Participants were shown pictures of 50 potential love interests and asked to sort them into two groups: those with whom they would prefer a long-term relationship and those with whom they would prefer a short-term relationship.

2. Participants were shown photos of luxury items typically associated with wealth, such as huge mansions, jewelry, expensive cars, and cash.


3. Participants were shown the same images of potential love interests and asked to sort them again in regard to their preferred relationship type, i.e., short or long-term.

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The psychologists found that after viewing the images associated with people of financial means, both male and female participants sorted significantly more people (a 16 percent increase) into the short-term relationship category.

So the old-fashioned rule of thumb that men prefer to marry beautiful women and women prefer to marry wealthy men is at least 50 percent false, as the ladies among the participants were just as likely as the gentlemen to put the richest people into the casual relationship box.


According to lead researcher Dr. Andrew G. Thomas:

“Not all people prefer long-term committed relationships. Evolutionary psychologists believe that whether someone prefers a short-term relationship over a long-term one depends partly on their circumstances, such as how difficult it might be to raise children as a single parent.

Importantly, when those circumstances change, we expect people to change their preferences accordingly... After participants were given cues that the environment had lots of resources, they became more likely to select individuals for a short-term relationship.

We think this happened because humans have evolved the capacity to read the environment and adjust the types of relationships they prefer accordingly.


For example, in environments that have lots of resources, it would have been easier for ancestral mothers to raise children without the father’s help. This made short-term mating a viable option for both sexes during times of resource abundance. We believe modern humans also make these decisions.”

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In layman's terms, if you see that the potential mother or father of your as-yet-unborn child is wealthy, you are likely to be less concerned about making sure your marriage or relationship with them lasts forever because you can rest assured that your child(ren) will have their rich parent's financial support regardless of whether or not the two of you stay together down the road.

Additionally, the researchers found money was far from the only environmental factor affecting whether people were more interested in something casual or something lasting.


“We also found that other types of cues had an effect," says Thomas."When the participants were given cues that the environment contained young children, they were more likely to select individuals for long-term relationships. Dangerous environments seemed to cause both men and women to choose more long-term partners, though some women chose more short-term partners instead.”

So look at it this way. Those people we self-righteously refer to as gold diggers may, on the surface, seem to be out there only for the yachts, cars, and diamonds, they may just be proactively attending to the well-being of their future children in a smart, practical, and biologically driven way.

You just may never be able to look at the Kardashians in the same way again.


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.