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Men are the ones ‘marrying up’ to more highly educated women today

High-flying lawyer Amal and her husband, George. Source: Shutterstock

“Marrying up” happens when you marry someone from a higher social class than yourself. This was a practice more common among women, as women were barred from many opportunities, like the right to work and go to school, until fairly recently. Hence, they “married up” to men who, back then, were more likely to have more employment and education opportunities compared to women.

The tables have wonderfully turned now, according to research led by a University of Kansas (UK) sociologist.

Today, more men are “marrying up” as there are more highly educated women now compared to a few decades ago, according to the study.

“The pattern of marriage and its economic consequences have changed over time,” says ChangHwan Kim, the study’s lead author.

“Now women are more likely to get married to a less-educated man,” the associate professor of sociology said.

Here’s how Kim and his study co-author Arthur Sakamoto, a professor of sociology at Texas A&M University came up with these findings: Using US Census data from 1990 and 2000, and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey, they examined the gender-specific changes in income and marriage from hundreds of thousands of 35 to 44-year-olds.

Kim and Sakamoto measured “gender-specific changes” by looking at how much return people were getting on their education in terms of their family’s income. The lead author told CNN that it’s a “popular” way to measure “standard-of-living that factors in family income and family size”.

“Previously, women received more total financial return to education than men, because their return in the marriage market was high. However, this female advantage has deteriorated over time despite women’s substantial progress in education and labor-market performance,” Kim said.

Between, 1990 and 2009-2011, the “net advantage” of being a woman in terms of “family-standard-of-living” decreased 13 percent, according to Kim.

Kim clarified the meaning of this “net advantage” in an email to CNN:  “If a high-school educated woman marries a man with a BA degree, her equalized income (which gauges the standard-of-living) can be higher than a high-school educated man who marries a woman with less than high school education.”

That’s no longer the case in 2009-2011.

Less educated men are now substantially benefiting from their wives’ higher salaries too when they “marry up”, even more than a less educated woman “marrying up”.

“The main driver of this phenomenon is ironically ‘the rise of women,” Kim wrote, adding that “women are now more educated than men” and that “unless we abandon marriage as a social institution completely, it is inevitable for many women to marry down.”

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