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Urban dwellers are pickier about looks in a potential mate

Country mouse, city mouse.

Researchers from the University of Kansas and the University of Georgia say that people living in rural areas aren't as hung up on appearances as city folk are, mostly because they don't have a smorgasbord of lookers to choose from.

"The importance of attractiveness in everyday life is not fixed, nor is it simply a matter of human nature. Instead it depends on the social environment where we live. It's contextual," said Victoria Plaut, assistant psychology professor at the University of Georgia and one author of the study, published in the current issue of the journal Personal Relationships.

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Cities provide a "free market of relationships" in which attractiveness acts as a "sorting mechanism and provides a competitive advantage for securing connections," the authors write. In rural areas, relationships are less about choice and more about who's around.

The researchers gleaned their findings from the replies of 257 urban and 330 rural women, aged 26 to 75, who took part in a separately conducted national survey that asked about their satisfaction in life. It also asked them to measure their waist-to-hip ratio (waist measurement divided by hip measurement): Research has shown that low ratios are associated with glowing reviews of female hotness.

The authors found that city women were more likely to be socially engaged and satisfied with their lives when their waist-to-hip ratios were low, in the .7 range. All of it proved irrelevant in the country.

"It's not that they don't care about their appearance, but there's less pressure," Prof. Plaut said.

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