Monday, February 12, 2007

Smart Men Marry Smart Women 1

For years I have been telling students that smart men marry smart women. I mean that in a double sense. On the one hand, men who are smart and well educated tend to marry women who are smart and well educated. On the other, if a man is smart, he will look past physical appearance, which fades, to brains – because brains endure. Men who figure this out early get first pick of the smartest women.

In fact, today is the day in the sociology of family life class when we first talk about this idea. It will not be the last time.

Christine Whelan has just published Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. As you can see, this was "must reading" for me, even if we are in the middle of the term. Whelan presents some interesting new research showing a change in the marriage patterns of the most educated women, a change for the better. I will be blogging on this book, and this idea, all week.

Today I just want to share one finding from a Harris Interactive poll that Whelan commissioned for the book. In answer to the question, do you want (or have) a spouse who is less capable of earning a good income than you, as capable of earning a good income as you, or more capable of earning a good income than you?

About 61% of the women say "as capable of earning a good income as me";

Among the men, there is a bell curve, with a quarter saying "more," a quarter saying "less," and half in the middle.

Here is the most interesting finding, though: among single men, 73% say they want a wife as capable of earning a good income as they are. Only 3% say she should be less capable. This bodes well for high-achieving women.


Anonymous said...

Single men, I am guessing, are more likely to be young men, and therefore earning less than older, married men. It is therefore not surprising that they say they wouldn't mind a wife that makes more money than them. I doubt, however, that these men would have contemplated what it would actually be like to have a wife making more money than them.

It works in theory, but in theory a bumblebee can't fly.

Gruntled said...

Fair enough. Still, I do think Whelan is probably right that the younger generation of men would be more accepting, even appreciative, of wives who make more than they do, than older generations were and are.

Unknown said...

"I doubt, however, that these men would have contemplated what it would actually be like to have a wife making more money than them."

I am curious, what is it actually like? Is it just terrible to imagine? I guess I don't get your point.

Anonymous said...

Not that its important to the point of the blog, but scientific myths should be abolished...sooooo, from Wikipedia.

It is believed that the calculations which purported to show that bumblebees cannot fly are based upon a simplified linear treatment of oscillating aerofoils. The method assumes small amplitude oscillations without flow separation. This ignores the effect of dynamic stall, an airflow separation inducing a large vortex above the wing, which briefly produces several times the lift of the aerofoil in regular flight. More sophisticated aerodynamic analysis shows that the bumblebee can fly because its wings encounter dynamic stall in every oscillation cycle.

Mark Smith said...

I am a happy smart man with my smart woman. Consciously or unconsciously, intelligence was one of my criteria for a mate. As I get older, I appreciate having someone who can think as fast as I do.

I have had to confront the reality of my wife making more than me, and it did give me pause. Not a long pause, though. (And unfortunately, the corporate world being what it is she's fallen behind me again. It was either that or let her company move both of us halfway across the country with NO job for me.) I think we're (men) hardwired to be the primary breadwinner.

At any rate, I wonder how many young people see beyond the surface to choose intelligence at the same level or above looks and personality. In college, experience seems to support the theory that this number is smaller than it should be, but maybe things get fixed by the time people get around to marrying.

Gruntled said...

One of the nice thing about smart men is that they can change their behavior based on a good argument. Like this one.

Anonymous said...

The question I have concerning 'smart' people is this: What exactly constitutes 'smart'? Is it strictly high IQ and earning potential? Or something more?

Truthfully,I personally believe 'smart' people are overrated. You can have a man or woman who is very intelligent in one area of life (such as academics) but totally stupid in other areas of life (such as people skills, personality, etc). Does that make them smart? Not in my book - you can be a genius that has a lot of earning potential yet lack the sense to deal with people.

Also, attraction (and marriage) is more than just earning potential. I could meet a woman that is super smart and has all the earning potential in the world, but if she has a lousy personality or doesn't take care of herself healthwise, then it is a waste.

Gruntled said...

Being smart is a complex gift and skill. Our educational system is good at finding smart people and putting them on the track of elite education, and then toward a small range of occupations. But there are mainly alternative paths that smart people take. College is a more important marriage market than it used to be, especially for smart people.