A little over a year ago, I had a post inspired by a New York Times story that referred to some research sponsored by Dove finding that only 4% of women considered themselves to be beautiful. The Times recently had another story which referred to the same study: "a mere 12 percent of women are satisfied by their looks and only 2 percent think of themselves as beautiful." Neither story gave a link to the Dove study, but a 1999 Gallup poll did ask people to rate their physical appearance. As I mention in that post, it's true that only 4% of women rate themselves as beautiful, but 40% say they are "attractive" and 53% say "average," leaving only 3% at "below average" or "unattractive." Also, 66% of women said they were "generally pleased with the way your body looks."
While checking to see if I'd missed any other relevant questions, I found a 2000 Gallup survey with a question very close to one asked back in 1950 and discussed in this post: "If you were a young man and looking for a bride, which would you prefer--a young woman who is very pretty or a young woman who is not pretty but has a lot of money." The 1950 asked the question of both men and women--the 2000 survey asked only men. Women in 2000 were asked if they were a young woman looking for a husband and had to choose between a handsome man and a man with money. That's a substantially different question, so I limit the comparison to men.
Comparing men's opinions in 1950 and 2000:
Pretty Money Other
1950 34% 24% 42%
2000 60% 24% 16%
That's a big change. The obvious explanation would be increased affluence--if you don't have to worry about making ends meet, you are less likely to focus on money. Breaking 2000 opinions down by income:
Pretty Money Other
Under 20,000 46% 37% 17%
20-30,000 69% 21% 10%
30-50,000 59% 20% 21%
50-75,000 69% 23% 8%
over 75,000 56% 25% 19%
People with incomes below $20,000 per year are more likely to choose money, but beyond that income doesn't seem to matter. I also considered education, but that had no clear connection to opinions (people with more education might have been a bit more likely to choose "other"). So the historical change seems to represent some kind of cultural shift, not a direct result of increased affluence and education. If I find any more questions involving choices between money and other considerations I'll discuss them in a later post.