Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here's To Assortative Marriage

Men and women are increasingly likely to marry someone with the same educational background. It used to be that college women were less likely to marry than were less-educated women. Women born after 1960 – that is, my cohort and after – however, are more likely to marry if they are college graduates than not.

One of the pieces of life advice I give to students is "smart men marry smart women." This claim has a double sense. One sense is just to describe assortative marriage: educated men are likely to marry educated women, and vice-versa. The other sense is more prescriptive: men who are smart will seek to marry women who are smart. Beauty fades; brains endure. You will probably be married a long time, so find someone you can talk to. This advice is true for women, too, of course. In fact, since women actually do the selecting in the final analysis, it is really smart women who choose smart men. But the men have to make an effort first. Since women are usually ready for marriage sooner than men are, those men who are ready to settle down earlier get first pick. I urge them to pick for brains.

So as we settle in for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the things I am most thankful for is Mrs. Gruntled – B.A. with highest honors, Yale lawyer, mother of my smart kids, and, at the moment, baking pumpkin pies. And we share jokes. May you all make the most suitable marriage that Providence allows.


Edith OSB said...

I think I will pass along your wisdom to my students - with attribution of course. Most of my students come from a working class background and think of both education and marriage as a way to move up from their parents' social class. The smart men/smart women scenario certainly doesn't hurt there either, although the reasons you mention are certainly the most important.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mrs. G.

DennisS said...

Please remember this is a generality. Sometimes people meet and fall in love without thought of social class or education.

My wife has a high school diploma, and continued working for a lawyer after graduation (moving from part-time to full time receptionist/secretary).

I've graduated from five different colleges/seminaries.

We've been married over 18 years, and find ourselves happily raising three teens. Having the same level of education doesn't mean that people are compatible, nor that they are after the same things in life.

We were fortunate to know the same person, and first saw each other at a wedding. That marriage didn't last, but that bride says the best thing to come out of her first marriage is that my wife and I met.

My wife and I both have a love of helping others. We don't have huge investments, nor do we travel much. But we have a love for Christ and his Church.

Gruntled said...


One of the reasons that assortative marriage is becoming more common is that most couples meet through sorted institutions, either school or work. If you meet elsewhere, you have a better chance of meeting someone of a different background.