God, sex, and money among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel: An integrated sociocultural and evolutionary perspective

Nechumi Malovicki Yaffe, Melissa McDonald*, Eran Halperin, Tamar Saguy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The origin of the tendency for men to value wealth more than women can be explained by both social role theory and evolutionary theory. We integrate these two perspectives to provide insight into a unique cultural context, the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, where social roles are reversed, such that women are the primary breadwinners in the family. Studies 1a and 1b provide support for social role theory's claim that men and women will internalize attitudes toward wealth that are consistent with their gender role in society. These findings are then integrated with an evolutionary perspective suggesting that men strive to elevate their personal status as a means of attracting mates. In most modern societies this equates to the accumulation of wealth, but in the ultra-Orthodox community it is religious devotion and piety that determine the status of men. An examination of mating preferences in the ultra-Orthodox community confirms many predictions from an evolutionary perspective and departs only in that women do not show a preference for mates with good financial prospects, but rather, owing to the unique sociocultural definition of status, women display a preference for men of strong religious devotion (Study 2). This contrasts with the secular Jewish community where women show the typical preference for wealthy men (Study 3). These findings are consistent with the idea that men may have evolved preferences for achieving status given the mating advantages it confers with women, but how status is achieved may be culturally specific.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)622-631
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cross-cultural
  • Mate preferences
  • Sex differences
  • Status
  • Ultra-orthodox
  • Wealth


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