Mayor to Ugly Women: I Was Just Trying to Up Your Market Value

The mayor of Mount Isa — an isolated town in Queensland, Australia — was vilified for making the following statement:

“May I suggest that if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa.”

He is simply recognizing that in the dating/marriage markets, looks are one of the commodities traded; there is substantial evidence suggesting that uglier women marry men with less human capital — men who earn less.

Asking ugly women to come to Mount Isa is just the mayor’s attempt to get them to where their scarcity might allow them to mitigate their “disadvantage” and benefit from the surplus of single men. Gains from trade make sense to this economist, although the mayor’s statement is somewhat crude.

Interestingly, the head of Mount Isa’s Chamber of Commerce noted that, “There’s a lot of anger circulating among the community. … There [are] a lot of women voicing their opinions.”

I wonder whether the women’s anger is a reaction to the mayor’s crudeness or a standard response by monopolists who are threatened with competition.


This is offensive. Both the original quote and the suggestion that the townswomen are protecting their monopoly.

Women have value outside of their appearance, and most would like to be in relationships with people who find them attractive and interesting and more than just "there."

I think the offense is clear if you replace the original sentiment with "Gay men move, I'm sure these princes of men will lower their standards for you."

Oh but right, we don't treat men's bodies as commodities in the same way.

James A. Corey

A random scan of the personals ads on Craigslist should help put to rest the notion that "looks don't matter" or that "it's not how much money you have in the bank that counts." Even taking into consideration the possibility that ad-placers aren't a representative sample of society; they do seem to represent a sample of the mate-seeking demographic.


Having lived my adult life in places where there is a high male to female sex ratio, my observation is that men just get comfortable with being single if they cannot attract a woman they are interested in.


Who cares about the dignity of an individual or the fact that MOST PEOPLE make decisions about life partners involving factors other than employment or looks. THERE IS AN ECONOMIC MODEL WE CAN MISAPPROPRIATE! YESSSS!

Explain to me again how this line of thinking is intending to improve the human condition...?


Why is it that women seem to get upset about being treated like a commodity in the sexual/companion sense ...

But have no difficulty treating men like a commodity when it comes to being "a good provider", "stable", "steady", "good with children", ... etc.

The sexes look for partially overlapping, but on average different sets & magnitudes of attributes in each other. Seems funny when one sex tries to go into denial about it. I guess the truth hurts!


I think JZ (#16 and #17) has some un dealt with porn issues. Regardless of your standards, there are always attractive people and unattractive people. The mayor didnt say anything about what qualified a woman as beauty disadvantaged. He just said that they should come to Mount Isa


Protecting monopoly would be my guess.


@15: When I was in the engineering program at Texas the students would hold a "Double E mixer", an event whose invitees were the Electrical Engineering and Elementary Education undergrads. There is something to be said for intentionally seeking out groups lacking one gender or the other.


#15, T

Funny you mention women in engineering...

I am an engineer and we definitely had a large male/female disparity in school, roughly 8:1 for the mechanical engineers. The three girls I regularly had classes with throughout school were more attactive than average but mediocre students at best (not saying anything about female intelligence, these three just happened to be less intelligent than the average engineering student). Around graduation time, several of us were talking about job offers, salary, etc. It turns out that all three of these women received multiple offers with extraordinary salaries upwards of 50% higher than us well performing male engineers. Too bad for us, but believe it or not, some employers are willing to pay a higher salary for eye candy. Go ahead and get angry at the "chauvinist" mayor for commoditizing female beauty, but remember it can go both ways.




It's wrong to apply economic principles to humans?! You and I and everyone else does it many times every day. Nearly every time you make a choice involving anyone else, you apply some sort or economic principle (especially if it involves a mate).

And why does everyone yell "sexism" any time differences between males and females are pointed out? We're always going to be different...

Matt K

I think that referring to women as a commodity is probably at the root of the problem. I can see a few assumptions being made here:

1. Women are attracted to status.

2. Men "deserve" women on a 1-1 ratio.

@15: No, you're not a commodity -- your labour is, in those cases.


Another reason why women might be upset about this is because it furthers the idea of beauty as a dichotomous; you either fit the standard model or 'pretty', or you don't. In actuality, there are no objectively pretty or ugly women, since straight men and lesbians have different tastes, and 'ugly' is just another way of saying 'not thin/young/white' etc.

Also, by encouraging 'ugly' women to come to Mt. Isa, this will brand any female newcomer as 'one of them ugly chicks that listened to the mayor's speech hahahaha'


or maybe a little denial and the fact the truth hurts. That's what this pc world gets you.


Brett Ellingson is right. This is a VERY funny post.

Thank you, Prof. Hamermesh.


Many of the male responders here have a porn-damaged entitlement mentality.


Seeing as how the young and beautiful gravitate to big cities as soon as their funds allow, methinks it's monopolists upset by competition.

Charles D

The odd part is that people always want politicians to be honest with them and talk in terms that they can understand. As soon as they do this they are blasted for pointing out the elephant in the room.

People need to reduce the cost of honesty so we can all stop lieing to each other.

Elise Conolly

I've been seeing quite a lot of anger from women all over the world, which suggests it's certainly not just about the competition.

Stephen Moore

I heard a similar story on NPR just recently (might have been the same one) where one of the local women commented that "As we say around here, yes, the odds are good, but the goods are odd." This comment might explain the demand-supply imbalance.

Imad Qureshi

I read this news couple of days ago and found it interesting. I think mayor was just trying to help his voters.

I like your guess about monopolist threatened by competition. I don't think that's the case though.