Will women marry down?

Still, the biggest reason we probably won’t see a lot more college-educated women walking down the aisle with their plumber is one we don’t like to say out loud: they want to have smart kids. Educated men and women are drawn to spouses they think will help them produce the children likely to thrive in the contemporary knowledge-based economy. That means high IQ, ambitious, and organized kids who will do their homework and take a lot of AP courses. The preference for alpha kids is the reason there is a luxury market for Ivy League egg and sperm donors. It also explains why, though we don’t have solid research distinguishing between elite and State U mating choices, Ms. Harvard will probably not accept a proposal from Mr. Florida State. The economist Greg Mankiw has quipped that “Harvard is probably the world’s most elite dating agency.” A glance at the New York Times nuptial pages suggests he’s right.

In this respect, homogamy, at least educational homogamy, has a profound social downside; it increases economic inequality. Educated couples pass on the smarts and habits to their children that lead to good jobs and nice homes with lots of enriching activities for the grandkids, while the children and grandkids of less-educated men and women remain behind.

Americans don’t like to think of themselves as class conscious. But marriage brings out the snob in the most democratic man or woman — for better or worse.

Kay Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She is the author most recently of Manning Up.

  • yeah

    Shut up, deborama. 

  • deborama

    i am very smart but i deliberately procreated with a man who was smart but not AS smart as me but MUCH better looking…my kids came out smart (but not as geeky smart as me) and way taller and better looking than me…I think that gives them a big advantage in this image-obsessed world…

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  • stillcode

    “This may be why, as several studies have found, husbands and wives with different education levels are more likely than homogamous couples to head to divorce court.”

    I believe that this could be a misleading statement. I have seen studies where divorce was higher if the wife had a higher education level than the husband, but I’ve never seen any studies that showed divorce was higher if the husband had a higher education level than the wife.
    If you have the name of the study I would be very interested in reading it, Ms. Hymowitz.

    I would also go so far as to hypothesize that husbands with a higher education level than their wives are less likely to divorce than husbands and wives with similar educational backgrounds. (I say this because education and salary are directly correlated and studies have shown that a husband’s higher income is directly correlated with decreasing divorce risk and a woman’s higher income is directly correlated with increasing divorce risk.)

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  • jonavark

    “. It makes sense to assume that the University of Michigan grad will share interests and a mindset with someone he met in econ class rather than a clerk he locked eyes with at the DMV”

    This author is an idiot.