Assortative mating is returning to Gilded Age levels

There is a new and interesting paper by Robert D. Mare on this topic, here is the abstract:

Patterns of intermarriage between persons who have varying levels of educational attainment are indicators of socioeconomic closure and affect the family backgrounds of children. This article documents trends in educational assortative mating throughout the twentieth century in the United States, using socioeconomic data on adults observed in several large cross section surveys collected between 1972 and 2010 and on their parents who married a generation earlier. Spousal resemblance on educational attainment was very high in the early twentieth century, declined to an all-time low for young couples in the early 1950s, and has increased steadily since then. These trends broadly parallel the compression and expansion of socioeconomic inequality in the United States over the twentieth century. Additionally, educationally similar parents are more likely to have offspring who themselves marry within their own educational level. If homogamy in the parent generation leads to homogamy in the offspring generation, this may reinforce the secular trend toward increased homogamy.

Having read through the paper, my immediate wonder was to what extent assortative mating is an effect rather than a cause of inequality?

The pointer is from Claire Lehmann.


Chicken, meet egg.
Egg, meet chicken.

If assortative mating caused inequality, would that make it a bad thing? I would think that choice of mate is something drastically more valuable to our society and in particular to our citizens than income equality or lack thereof.

If it's a cause of inequality, then it's all the more important to ensure that everyone has a decent chance to get a good education.

In the American context, I think this would point to problems such as school funding formulas which are based on property taxes in the area, which means worse education for the poor.

"which means worse education for the poor": very possibly, but it needn't. Adoption of more effective teaching habits could conceivably outweigh that. What stops people trying that? Teachers' unions? Other malign forces in society?

The educational industrial complex.

Separate but equal is a contradiction in terms. The only solution is busing and it is the only solution that will never happen.

You don't need bussing. You just need to mandate that people live in diverse neighborhoods.

Good luck with that. Bill DeBlasio ran on it as his signature issue but his attempts to make it happen are laughable. Sure you get 30 lucky winners in affordable apartments in ritzy neighborhoods but at a cost of tens of millions in tax revenue and you still don't get meaningful diversity.

You aren't thinking outside the box. Not only can we move poor people to live in rich neighborhoods, we can move rich people to poor neighborhoods.

Busing is not a solution at all. Just generates social conflict. Sequestering feral children, vigorous academic tracking, curricula appropriate to track, and fixed performance standards are solutions. You'll never get them because the bureaucracy and the pols have a vocational and ideological interest in the ruin of a status quo.

Busing is far and away the best method of any tried since Brown v. Board of Education. It's not even a contest.

Busing is far and away the best method of any tried since Brown v. Board of Education. It’s not even a contest.

Tried for what purpose? Are you aware of the condition of the Boston school system when Arthur Garrity was done with it?

Boston is not the only place to do busing.

If everyone adopts better teachers habits, then this presumably benefits everyone similarly, and poorly funded schools will still suffer from problems like larger class size, poorer educational materials and less qualified/competent teachers, and the inequality problems still persist.

Actually, about 75% of them are suffering from the classroom disruptions and bullying perpetrated by the other 25%. Be more impressed if you'd bothered to mention it.

In order for things like "Adoption of more effective teaching habits" to avoid "worse education for the poor" you would need some way to ensure that richer districts are unable to copy the "more effective teaching habits" & ensure that poor districts don't move up the ladder thereby becoming the nonpoor districts using the "more effective teaching habits". Unless your comfortable with that kind of double standard (i.e. "more effective teaching habits" for poor districts, but preventing nonpoor districts from adopting those teaching habits), we are back to needing to fix inequalities caused by school funding formulas.

We can just send a guy with an Uzi into a rich school once a month until they perform just like the poor schools.

The highest-spending districts in the US (e.g. New York, Baltimore, Washington DC) are lousy performers while states like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota produce excellent results with dramatically lower spending levels. California has top-10 teacher compensation and bottom-10 outcomes. In general, in the US there's only a weak relationship between public-school spending and educational results.

Besides assortive mating, you have assortive housing, where the well educated couples segregate themselves from the riff raff by living in areas with other well educated couples.

So what you see is school districts that are not just segregated by income, or wealth, which is an effect of the assortive mating. High performing districts are those with a high proportion of married, highly educated couples, and yes, they do pass that along to their children.

California and New York are uuuge, and averages hide more than they show.

"When it comes to the total number of gold medal schools, California had the most – 95 – followed by Texas with 59 and New York with 58."

As The Engineer says, attendance in those schools is assortive, but in my experience not uniform. Some are professional families, some are successful in the trades, some are wealthy immigrants.

Sorry, isn't that exactly what you would expect since they are the most populous states? Regardless of school quality?

You're looking at the wrong level. NY and Washington are expensive places for anything, if only because you have to pay the rent. California is full of people studying in their second language. Compare WITHIN these areas and the evidence is quite strong (sorry, too lazy right now to find articles to back it up, but I've read several articles which make this point quite clearly).

California is full of people studying in their second language.

I can think of a way to remedy that.

Looking within states, you'll find two things:

1. In suburban/exurban communities, the rich people live together where property values and tax revenues are high. These schools a high-performing in the sense of high test scores (but it's not obvious they're high-performing in terms of value-add).

2. Lots of poor people live in large cities where per-pupil spending is high but test scores are low. The rich people who live there either don't have kids or send them to private or magnet schools.

What would happen if you equalized funding across all districts? Michigan has been running this experiment for a couple of decades ago. Would it surprise you to learn that suburban school districts operating on the state standard per-pupil allowance still outperform as they did before? And that the districts with poor minority students continue to do poorly? And that within high-performing districts with substantial minority populations (like here in Ann Arbor), there is a large and persistent achievement gap? The bottom line is that when wealthy, educated people cluster together, they really don't need extra school funding for their kids to excel.

Slocum asks "What would happen if you equalized funding across all districts? Michigan has been running this experiment for a couple of decades ago. Would it surprise you to learn that suburban school districts operating on the state standard per-pupil allowance still outperform as they did before? "

As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, NJ does this and more. The poorest urban areas actually have the highest per-pupil funding. Yet those schools are still awful.

I won't speculate on what the problem is, but it's clear that throwing money at it does not fix the problem.

California is full of people studying in their second language.

They will be bilingual in a few years, is that truly a disadvantage. I ask because my nephews and nieces go to English only schools in Honduras. English only schools there recruit teachers who only speak English because when they hired bilingual teachers the children did not learn English as fast and as well.

then it’s all the more important to ensure that everyone has a decent chance to get a good education.

The impediments to that are

2. The teachers' colleges
3. The federal Department of Education
4. state education departments
5. school administrators
6. the har-de-har public interest bar and their enforcers in the judiciary
7. affiliated professionals like school psychologists
8. black and hispanic politicians
9. other politicians deferring to or serving 1-8
10. other politicians asleep at the switch
11. the teachers' unions
12. fuzz-heads in the teacher corps
13. suburban electorates
14. politicians deferring to suburban electorates.

Ha ha ha if you think any of these crooked stakeholders are going away. Fixing primary and secondary schooling in this country would require a Pinochet regime one state at a time.

You're probably right. I think we have school funding formulas done much better in Canada than in the USA.

What do you do if rich people get uppity and try to fund their childrens' education too much?

If rich people want to opt out of the public school system and still pay taxes for everyone else that's a decent second best to integrated schools. The worst situation is the status quo where we have public schools in name only.

Doesn't much matter. The effect of school funding on outcomes hits a plateau beyond a certain point and performance comes to be fairly insensitive to improvements in funding. The power-drunk judge in Kansas City who was allowed by the U.S. Department of Justice to seize control of the core city school system got an education in what was not missing. This is not a novel insight. James Coleman's scholarly work on the relationship between funding and performance suggested that, cross-sectionally, it was week. I believe his initial work was published in 1966.

Weak discipline and disorder, bad teaching methods, fluff in the curriculum, poorly sequenced curriculum, inane teacher training programs, an archaic school calendar, and what Jerry Jesness calls 'the floating standard' are problems. Funds, not so much.

The worst situation is the status quo where we have public schools in name only.

Suggest sobering up before posting.

Suggest pulling your head of out your ancient layabout ass.

What you have better in Canada is better parents and students and culture than in US inner cities and poor suburbs. Luckily for Canada, the US can't export our lower class to you the way Mexico, Central America, Africa, Pakistan, and other places have done to the US.

Can we bus the Canadian kids into our American schools? Our military is idle for the moment and looking for something to do.

Is there any actual evidence that the poor receive worse education?

"school funding formulas which are based on property taxes in the area, which means worse education for the poor."

For the data that I'm familiar with (State of NJ), the total funding for poor urban districts is actually significantly higher than that of richer rural districts. Even though the tax base in those richer districts is higher, much of the property tax collected there is actually taken by the State and redistributed to the poorer districts, with additional state-level funding thrown in on top.

In any case, as I'm sure you've seen argued ad nauseam, the historical record for the correlation between educational achievement and school funding is remarkably poor.

In the American context, I think this would point to problems such as school funding formulas which are based on property taxes in the area, which means worse education for the poor.

Moving to opportunity study:

Key findings to date for youth include:

MTO had little to no measured effect on physical health.

MTO improved mental health for females but not for males: Females in the low-poverty voucher group had lower prevalence of psychological distress, mood disorders, panic attacks, and oppositional defiant disorder and fewer serious emotional or behavioral difficulties.

MTO had differential impacts by gender for problem behavior but little impact on arrests.

MTO had no detectable effects on math and reading achievement.

At first sight it seems strange to see "choice of mate" defended. That's a given. The only question is how choice evolves and, as mentioned, the chicken and egg feedback.

On the other hand, Americans fail at so many first marriages that maybe we should not have excess pride in choice.

"Americans fail at so many first marriages"


> Spousal resemblance on educational attainment was very high in the early twentieth century,

What? I'll read the paper, but I would have guessed that a vanishingly small number of women went to university in the early 20th century, and much less completed a professional degree/PhD. Perhaps there were few people in general who completed advanced degrees back then (even though I would guess that the male:female ratio was absurdly high) so they are lost in the noise, which means of course 'everyone' had similar achievement.

Quick Googling showed that on 4% of the population had bachelors degrees back in 1920, and the ratio for a BA (not professional/advanced) was a little higher than 2:1 (much lower than I would have expected).

Anyway, I'm still going with the explanation that it was lost in the noise at 4%.

In the 1920's a substantial portion of adults had no education beyond grade 6, and it was only 1960 when the majority of US adults had high school diplomas. If you looked at pair correlation of highest school grade completed, I'm sure you'd have interesting 1920 data to look at.

The nuns suggested my great-grandfather drop out of school and get a job in second grade. So he did. He was a somewhat successful entrepreneur in South Philly- successful enough to send his two children through college.

I can't access the article, but it does seem that this is a progression from:

Early 20th Century - Education levels are generally low across the board, for both sexes. Thus high "spousal resemblance" in terms of education levels.

Mid 20th Century - Men make huge strides in terms of educational attainment, not least due to the GI Bill. Women are left behind for the moment. Inequality between genders in education means low spousal resemblance. A guy with a bachelor's couldn't find a wife with a bachelor's even if he wanted, so he married a homemaker. That's generally what wives were for at that time (and previously) anyway.

Late 20th Century - Women make huge strides in educational attainment, the gap is narrowed. Men have no choice but to deal with educated women because they are now more or less ubiquitous. Spousal resemblance increases.

Right, it seems to be more of a history of education as a sorting index. Barbara Bush, who dropped out of college at age 19 to marry, comes to mind. Very elite woman, with an education that now marks mostly underclass people.

Male:Female college enrollment in the first decade of the 1900s was around 3:2, per the US Dept of Education (PDF):

4 year degree vs. 2 year degree. Dig deeper.

Well, this is a social plus, at least from a Gilded Age perspective on eugenics. An age where no one at the top on the ladder bothered themselves wondering about effects, since the cause was clearly so much inferior human material in the way of a much better world. Social Darwinism has never been a road bump regarding the visions that eugenicists are so wedded to.

Are you complaining about Democrats here?

I agree with those above that the Gilded age comparisons in this case are dubious.

To take a stab at Tyler's question, I think assortative mating is clearly a cause of inequality. If the smart pair off with each other, and then create even smarter babies, that will clearly exacerbate inequality. But the cultural divides that arise from inequality make those from different classes seem more foreign than they otherwise would were the rungs of the economic ladder closer together.

Yes, but beauty will come in sufficient quantity to poor women of at least moderate intelligence who will seek to marry up (hypergamy) and have a child to cement the relationship. The problem we are seeing now is that highly educated professional women don't want to marry the well-read carpenter without a college degree. This problem will exacerbate as more women continue to get college degrees then men.

This is a good point, but I think will reverse itself when professional women realize the benefits of having a Stay At Home Dad to take care of the kids, while the woman pursues a career. If forced to choose between staying single and childless, and marrying down, at least having a stay-at-home dad provides an added incentive to marry down.

Added: So maybe the well-read carpenter should signal that he loves kids and would be happy to stay at home and tutor them in math. That might be the quickest way to marry up.

Being a stay at home dad is certainly more socially acceptable today, whereas it it was mocked in the past. Remember that movie "Mr. Mom?" I think for it to become common, though, it would require a further cultural shift away from the mocking of men's domestic abilities and competency, which one sees routinely in media. The onus isn't on men to signal their willingness to be domestic, they readily marry single mom's already in sufficient numbers and take on another man's children, but rather on women.

For sure, most professional women are still hoping to meet an even more successful man and this become an upper-income household . But given that women are getting more college degrees than men, that mean there's going to be a lot of single professional women who are going to have to decide between marrying down or being single and childless. My point is that advertising a willingness to be a SAHD might be the incentive needed to convince a professional woman to settle down instead of continuing to wait for the sucessful professional guy with the college degree to show up.

But given that women are getting more college degrees than men, that mean there’s going to be a lot of single professional women who are going to have to decide between marrying down or being single and childless.

No, it isn't, because the sector of the working population receiving baccalaureate degrees exceeds the entrants to the professional-managerial segment by a factor of about 3 nowadays and is half-again larger than the sector earning salaries rather than wages. The baccalaureate degree is a job market signal indicating trainability. It can also impart some vocational training itself. The proportion of male cohorts enrolling in 4 year colleges has not changed for 35 years. The share of women has gone up; it's safe to guess that the increase in that share for women is not composed of the high performers in secondary school, but of the 60th percentile performers who might have been content 35 years ago with community college or hitting the workforce at 18.

Suggest what you're really looking at is skilled tradesmen (who've completed community college or apprenticeship programs) pairing off with women who have a B.A. degree but are doing the sort of work their elders would have done in 1979 without one: sales, office employment at various skill levels, peri-medical occupaitons, &c.

Post WWII America had a historically low average age of first marriage due to broad prosperity and perhaps the accelerated maturation of military service. Lots of young women dropped out of college to marry a boy a year or two older who went on to graduate, which can artificially downplay how assortative the marriage really was.

To take an example from the upper crust, future First Lady Barbara Bush dropped out of Smith College at age 19 in 1945 to marry George H.W. Bush, who was 20 and back from the War. She stayed home to have six children, while he went and graduated from Yale in 2.5 years.

But while the couple's ultimate levels of education differed, it was a pretty assortative marriage overall: George's father was a financier and Senator, Barbara's father was president of the company that owned two leading women's magazines.

You're probably on to something. Mid-century jobs for US men were just so good that families could live the dream on a single income. It's not like women were less smart or curious back then, but many had no incentives to stay in formal education, even to finish high school. I would love to see if there is data on IQ correlations of married couples across generations. Nowadays we take for granted that people prefer to marry their intellectual equal, but maybe in the 50's the priorities were more like "matching quality of catch" which prioritized earning for men but hotness and domesticity for women. If this stereotype is right, then maybe the 50's also had more IQ-mismatched marriages than we have now. I'd like to see data.

Good points.

A lot of couples got divorced in the later 1960s-1970s, suggesting that some of the early marriages of 1945-1970 were driven more by hormones than by mature considerations of long term compatibility.

I bet somebody has a data source somewhere on test scores and marriages -- perhaps at Stanford where the Terman dynasty was very interested in such matters. Louis Terman devised the Stanford-Binet, the first American IQ test. Terman's son Fred, who strikes me as having a better claim to be Father of Silicon Valley than his buddy William Shockley, rifled the files of the psych department to find out a girl's IQ score, then married her.

A lot of couples got divorced in the later 1960s-1970s, suggesting that some of the early marriages of 1945-1970 were driven more by hormones than by mature considerations of long term compatibility.

The highest marital attrition rates ever recorded were in 1944-47. I had a conversation with my mother over the phone when I discovered that datum and her reply was, "Oh, all those war marriages, I'd forgotten about that". The film The Best Years of Our Lives includes the implosion of a war marriage in one of its story lines.

I think your thesis that the revolution in the social ecology between 1967 and 1979 as being driven by contemporaries of my parents (i.e. people born in 1929 + /- 6 years) is just wrong. I think if you unpacked it, you'd discover that the rapid increase in propensity to divorce began in the cohorts born about a decade later and married ca. 1961. Again, the median lapse of time between marriage and separation for a divorcing couple is about 4.5 years and the propensity to divorce is highest among childless couples. The young people getting married ca. 1956 (when the age at first marriage hit its trough) were over the hump by 1967. IIRC, the lifetime probability of divorce for those born ca. 1930 is somewhere around 25%; that for the 1950 cohort is somewhere north of 50%.

The Baby Boom cohort of young women that started turning 18 in 1964 destabilized the marriages of lots of married couples born just before the Baby Boom due to the huge ratio of single young women to married slightly older men.

There was less market segmentation in housing before the late 50s. I wonder what the effect of the end of restrictive covenants was on IQ assortive mating. I imagine it wasn't that uncommon for a relatively wealthy, smart Lithuanian to marry a poorer Lithuanian of below average intelligence if they attended the same parish.

"... artificially downplay how assortative the marriage really was."

You are missing the mechanisms at work here. Marriage based on who your father is is assortative. Marriage based on your ability to get into Yale or Smith on your own cognitive ability and level of conscientiousness is even more assortative.

The ramifications are significant. A social hierarchy based on oligarchy and family connections is rigid, but it generally allows some number of smart kids from humble backgrounds to rise and some dumb kids from privileged backgrounds to fail. The closer you move to a pure meritocracy, however, social hierarchy becomes even more rigid, because the rate at which smart kids get pulled up and paired together accelerates. And you end up in a situation where Yale and Smith are filled with kids from the top of the SES not owing to nepotism, but because those kids have the tools, both genetic and cultural, to outcompete everyone else.

The poor tend to have more children, and attractive women of moderate intelligence will always be able to "marry up." There will be sufficient churn. We won't have a natural aristocracy as beauty is not dependent on having beautiful parents.

"beauty is not dependent on having beautiful parents."


What's the data on SES and fecundity?

Don't make me waste my employer's salary by having me take to time to look up the citations for the fact that as standards of living worldwide have raised, number of children per family has decreased. It's sorta standard developmental economics. As for your "wut?" beauty is primarily about symmetry, and it arises out of all sorts of genetic combinations.

Poor women will not marry up if they have to chance to interact in a casual social environment with better off men. Which is fast becoming the case these days due to income segregation

Note: Please retire the word "hypergamy" it doesn' t mean what you think it does. You need to coin a word like "aristogamy" or "plutogamy" for that meaning

That should read "no chance"

I can coin whatever word I want, but getting widespread acceptance is another matter. Few people even know the word or the meaning of hypergamy, but everyone understands "marrying up." And while aristogamy makes sense as an alternative, plutogamy doesn't, at least to me. I think of the planet or the Roman god and don't see how it has any bearing on the behavior.

"Poor women will not marry up if they have to chance to interact in a casual social environment with better off men. Which is fast becoming the case these days due to income segregation"
---Maybe. How do most people meet their mate right now? Online? Work? Social activities? I think we'd have to see a Downton Abbey type of social stigma against the mixing of the classes for your scenario to happen.

"Ploutos" is "wealth" in Greek. "Plutogamy" should be recognizable since we have no problem with "plutocracy". No one (I hope) thinks that word means "rule of the dead". (The god Pluto got his name because he lived underground where all the gold and silver and gems are, as well as the buried bodies)

Of course we are all free to coin such words as we will. However when I first saw "hypergamy" my first thought was "extreme polygamy". "Hyper-" as a prefix generally means "a great many" or "excessive"-- hence "hyperactive", "
hyperbaric", "hyperthyroidism" and so forth.

Re: How do most people meet their mate right now?

Through friends, at school, at church, at work, maybe online (though I question how common that is; there are far more Internet fating horror stories than success stories). As a general rule most people these days socialize within their own class.

Affirmative action proponents like to point out the advantage legacy kids get at elite schools. However what are the odds that a child applicant of a Harvard alum is that far off the class mean?

My father married an intelligent girl; I suspect he knew that he was too impatient to put up with someone intellectually dull. I think of him as the anti-Mr Bennet.

This is true. Average marriage ages in 1900 was about 30 for men and we are about back to that age today. Whereas the average age sunk to historic lows in the 1950s.

Ignore the piffle article, I posted it only for the statistics in the first paragraph.

I suspect a quantitatively inclined social historian could take a variety of cracks at studying this interesting question. Here's a methodology that might prove useful: try an apples to apples comparison across generations by looking at, say, the marriages of girls who attended an expensive boarding school, such as Miss Porter's School in Connecticut, which was founded in 1843:

A lot of the information about who they married should be readily available from the Social Register, NYT wedding announcements, and the like.

That wouldn't necessarily tell you all that much about society as a whole, but it would be pretty interesting.

Richard Herrnstein's seminal 1971 article in The Atlantic "I.Q." famously asserted that marriage would become more assortative due to sorting by the SAT. I can recall reading it at the local public library around 1973.

But I'm still not sure how much evidence Herrstein had for his model of how past marriages had to be unassortative due to few choices for young people growing up in rural villages. My impression from Gregory Clark's books is that Herrnstein's model was rather stylized and that marriage tended to be surprisingly assortative down through English history.

Here's an important point I garnered from Clark. The average Englishwoman between 1200 and 1800 first married at 24 to 26, which provided quite a lot of time for socializing and courtship to work themselves out assortatively. Wealthy women married younger on average, but they were more literate and leisured, so their choices weren't unconsidered either.

Cause and effect. I don't find it surprising that an educated man (woman) would marry an educated woman (man); rather, I find it surprising that an educated man (woman) would marry an uneducated woman (man), as was the case for the long period following the end of the First Gilded Age(1900) up until the beginning of the Second Gilded Age (in the 1970s). What did those mismatched (in educational level) couples talk about? I suspect that mismatched mating was due in part to the rise of public education (especially at the post-secondary level), and the rise in assortative mating at the beginning of the Second Gilded Age is due in part to the decline of public education. My own family is a microcosm of the trends: my great-grandfather was highly educated and married a highly educated woman (from an affluent family), they had seven children six of whom (one did not marry) were highly educated and married highly educated (and in many cases affluent) mates (in each case during the First Gilded Age), but their children (my parent's generation) who were born after the end of the First Gilded Age married mates of varying educational levels and affluence. As for cause and effect, is the trend between the Gilded Ages for mismatched mating attributable to the relatively high level of class mobility; and likewise, is the trend during the Gilded Ages for assortative mating attributable to the relatively low level of class mobility.

My hunch is that the First Gilded Age reflected more of the norm than the post-war era. See, The Son Also Rises. The generational rewards for assertive marriage are usually positive, although the strength varies. Today, when intellectual capital has increased value--as opposed to the Industrial Age--potential parents have strong incentives to maximize the genetic traits of their children.

It's a cause, and a very big one. A hell of a lot bigger than what school you went to.

Not long ago, every US male married a housewife with no income, so there was really only one variable to factor into the equation. How much did the man make?

Now, a software engineer making 120K can either double or halve his family income with his choice of mate.

Big houses in safe neighborhoods are filled with professional people who married each other and stayed married. It's not complicated, people.

Not long ago, every US male married a housewife with no income, so there was really only one variable to factor into the equation. How much did the man make?

Come again? In 1930, fully a quarter of the formal sector labor force was female and in 1957, fully a third was. Keep in mind that in 1957, most women were married by their 21st birthday and marital attrition rates were such to suggest a lifetime probability of divorce of about 20%. These were married working women.

He overstates the case, but you know as well as I do that in both 1930 and 1967, women weren't earning very much in the labour market as a general rule.

Compared to whom? And at what cost to whom? Professional-managerial employments were a masculine preserve. It was assumed at that time that professionals were celibates, so there weren't many women in the professions. However, 87% of the workforce is outside the professional-managerial stratum and about 70% are wage-earners. Then, as now, clerical employments were a feminine preserve (with qualifications), and then, as now, trade employments were a masculine preserve. A variety of laws and social customs may have debarred women from better paid trade and industrial jobs, but the evolution of the workforce since then (what sort of work women do and do not do) strongly suggests there wasn't much pent up demand for industrial jobs among women at that time and that there is not much now.

You've forgotten the fad for 'comparable worth' ca. 1983. Behind it was the notion that women should have the sort of employment they prefer at the sort of wages they preferred (or the wages Barbara Ehrenreich, Judge Jack Tanner, Geraldine Ferraro, and Gary Hart thought they should get). Made no sense unless you fancied the labor market was some sort of vast conspiracy (about which Ehrenreich was explicit and about which the others apparently never gave a thought).

I wonder how much the GI Bill had to do with this.

Many more men going to college (or taking trade school classes) that in previous times would have been inaccessible to them. Their wives would not have had the same opportunities.

I, for one, welcome our new multi-ethnic, well educated, coastal elite overlords.

I doubt the IQ obsessed (you know who you are) are going to be happy when get what they've been predicting. They are going to need some kind of neologism involving cuck and smart or cognitive or similar.

I wonder how much the Great Depression and World War II skews these kind of statistics? My father had a law degree and my mother barely finished high school. But my maternal grandfather was a government official in Europe before the war and my mother's educational aspirations were stunted in part by being a refugee. Their educational attainments differed, but their IQs and overall outlook and interests were the same.

By the way, I think many of this are looking at this backwards. We are thinking of an educated man marrying an uneducated woman. But it was often the case that a factory worker would marry a teacher. One job required a college education while the other did not, but they were both union jobs, so there was assortative mating happening, only the criteria was different.

Correction: "By the way, I think many of US are looking at this backwards "

If you watch movies / read books from mid-century (or before, but it is the mid-century that is relevant for that), "interclass" marriages/romances seemed to be a typical cause of scandal (or even for kids running from home), meaning that (specially in the varient high status woman / low satus male) they should not be much common.

Probably the apparent non-assortative mating in these times is simply a statistical illusion, motivated by a low relation between formal education level of women and their real social background.

When comes class issues, it is best to remember the immediate post-WW2 era was the historical outlier not the long term reality. Steve mentioned that people, espeically men, got married at a very young age after High School and some military service or college. During that High School, college and military people are exposed to the most people outside their class and potentially dating people outside their class. (I did and know of others.) And people ended getting married earlier.

With people waiting to get married and meeting their spouces after they turn 25, people tend to get exposed to less classes and dating more within their class.

Not that young. The median age at first marriage for men was 23 at the 1956 trough. The temporal relationship between marriage and children would have been distended for those a decade older than that because of war service.

I suspect assortive mating has increased because people are delaying marriage longer in the modern era. Because people are marrying later, this means their choice of mate is less driven by hormones and more by a economic rationalism. People are getting their lusty flings out of the way early and then realizing, once they are into their careers and caught up in status competition, that they need a husband or wife who can pull a high salary in if they are going to have the biggest house.

In a dating field in which everyone is seeking the highest-earning partner, mating will tend to become assortive. The highest earning males will attract the highest earning females, and the lowest earners will have to settle for lower earning mates.

I suspect that 50 years ago, a high earning male would have been less interested in a wife with a successful career, and more likely to marry the prettiest girl he could find, even if she was his secretary. A high earning female would have stayed single. Now that same male will marry the high-earning female and maybe have an affair with the secretary but will not consider marrying her.

Hazel, this thinking really does not mirror the thoughts of ANY of my male friends. The guys who are still single and finally have stable careers think "yes, I have my own place and my own money, now I can sleep with as many women as I want!" The guys who move into stable careers and are getting married at 28 are guys who met the girl at 23 or 24 and had no careers at the time, and moved into money after dating the same girl for 2 years.

Well, with all due respect, you are a self proclaimed Beta male, and I suspect you hang with similar men. That might skew your sample. Hazel Meade is more correct than you think. Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” says the party till you get married plan is the future:

“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.”

The question after this, though, are men going to want to marry women in their early 30s after decades of partying, and vice versa?

The question after this, though, are men going to want to marry women in their early 30s after decades of partying, and vice versa?

For those who ultimately decide they want to have a family with children, yes. Many people think it's sexy to party their way through their 20s, but most people (especially women) DO bank on eventually settling down and having kids. I think that those people, once they hit their 30s, they have gotten over having crazy sex and are more likely to favor a husband/wife who is going to be a good earner and a decent parent.

The guys who are still talking about having sex with as many women as they want well into their 30s probably aren't planning to ever get married or have kids.

But why would they marry a woman in her 30's if they want kids? That would be a disaster.

Wouldn't be a disaster. It would mean you have an option to have 1 or 2 children rather than three or four. A women generally has one baby left in her at age 38, more earlier.

If you marry at 33, it's totally possible to have 3-4 children.
My mother had four children after 35. Two in her 40s.

My grandmother had her last (most unexpectedly) at age 41; the year was 1936. I know a woman who had a baby at 43. Wouldn't recommended banking on being able to do that. The most fecund woman I've ever known had her last at age 37. It's smarter to play the averages.

True about late pregnancies being more open to women of good health then in the past, but they are very hard on the body, and thus less desirable in that regard. Why do even the best professional athletes retire mid 30s? Their bodies cannot recover as fast from injuries. It's a trade-off of a riskier pregnancy, and a slower recovery, to have a child later in life when you can somewhat afford too. It's hard to deny basic biology here.

Eh... I constantly hear of people having kids in their 40s. My brother in law just had a kid and his wife was 44 at the time. My sister has a friend who had a baby at 47, and got pregnant naturally (yes, this is extremely rare). I've heard of women in the 1800s having four children over 40.

It's the seen and the unseen. Nobody tells you they're having trouble conceiving, but the 40+ successes are obvious.

It's certainly possible, it's just not the way to bet. Note also that many of the 40+ successes come via ART, which is often a path of great heartache. Again, nobody tells you they had five miscarriages before they had a baby at 42.

Eh… I constantly hear of people having kids in their 40s.

You have an unusual circle of friends.

The lifetime probability of birthing a baby past age 40 is currently running at about 8.6%. So, not rare, but atypical. Some of that indubitably makes use of technological tricks. I know a woman who married at age 40 and popped a pair of twins at age 42; they never volunteered she'd taken fertility drugs.

Art Deco, those lifetime probabilities do not account for whether someone is *trying* to have a baby or not. Or even having regular sex. Those are just births per age cohort. Many women already have had their kids by that age and are not interested in having more. Or aren't that interested in sex anymore. Or their husbands aren't. Any number of reasons.

The probability of conception within one year for a healthy couple having active regular intercourse is about 35% for the 40-44 age cohort. If you're timing intercourse with ovulation, it's probably better. Over the course of 2 years, that's going to be a better than 50% chance of at least one pregnancy.
Now, miscarriages also go up, but those are going to be in the first 3 months, so it doesn't take long to get back to trying. I'd say that between 40-44 odds are that a healthy woman who is trying to get pregnant will likely be able to have at least one child.

"Over the course of 2 years, that’s going to be a better than 50% chance of at least one pregnancy."

Those years aren't independent trials.

He may be a self proclaimed beta guy, but anyone that refers to women as "females" and men as "males" outside of a peer reviewed journal is an omega.

I am inclined to agree about your designation, however in the military it is common to say "male" and "female" and see it written that way in uniform manuals.

You think Hazel Meade is a jarhead?

Doesn't strike me as one. But, I just wanted to point out that the only other circle besides academia that uses "male" and "female."


Sheryl Sandberg is talking about women. I absolutely agree with Hazel: the idea is to party and date around and date hot boys when young. And when these girls settle in their careers, yes, they are more interested in safer bets with higher income potential.

My point is that men do not share this viewpoint. At all. Because, you know. They are men.

Oh, I agree. I was trying to tailor my message to the intended audience, ya know?

You can both be right. Women's preference for older mates has limits, so you can eventually reach a point where you age out of the dating market. Ability to attract mates is a function of wealth, EQ, IQ, etc... and age. You probably want to get a mate sometime around your personal peak attractiveness, lest the competition leave you with the dregs.

cineminded, you are right, but the thing is that the peak attractiveness mating for men and women is at different ages.

It wasn't until recent decades that the median age at first marriage reached a level which was normal in 1895. That sort of metric goes up and down over long cycles. I've seen statistics from colonial Massachusetts which had it that the median age at first marriage for men was 28 at that time and place. If you take into account the increases in life expectancy for those age 22, I'm not sure the pre-marital period in their life is proportionately shorter than it was in 1895.

Well, weren't inequality and assortive mating also at highs in 1895? That rather supports my thesis, doesn't it?

Not seeing it.

If there's a correlation between assortive mating and inequality, then delayed marriage leading to assortive mating is consistent with high levels of assortive mating and inequality also having existed in 1895, another time period when pople were marrying late.

I'm increasingly convinced that we have an Eloi and Morlocks future ahead of us, and it's making me absolutely despondent.

You predict cannibalism?

> to what extent assortative mating is an effect rather than a cause

Doesn't seem interesting. We have multiple measures demonstrating a single syndrome: an increasingly oligarchic society.

What is interesting: is that the kind of society we want? If not, can we as a body politic do anything to reverse that trend? eg, putting in place a total tax system (local, state, federal combined) that actually is progressive?

Looks progressive to me. Without even knowing the inputs to the graph which I imagine are not accurate since this does not match up with reality. U.S. taxes are much more progressive than European taxes, right?

Without having read the paper, I'd be interested to know how they accounted for the dramatic rise in educational attainment by women over the course of the 20th century. Just to make up some numbers, maybe in 1920 you had 20% of men and 5% of women earning an undergraduate degree, whereas in 2015 you have 40% and 40% (with the % of women being slightly higher). So in 1920, as a college educated man, it would theoretically have been more difficult to marry a college educated woman, purely because they were more scarce.

I think the ratio of men to women enrolled in tertiary schooling was much closer than 4/1. The Statistical Abstract of the United States will have precise numbers. I think has pdfs and zip files available.

You're all looking at the wrong underlying variable.

Educational assortative mating is going up not because high-IQ people are marrying high-IQ people, but because high-conscientiousness people are marrying high conscientiousness people.

Education only weakly correlates with IQ. Some majors (early childhood ed, social work) actually have average IQs below that of the median high school graduate. Education very strongly correlates with conscientiousness. Getting a liberal arts degree doesn't require high wattage upstairs, but it does require showing up every morning.

The breakdown of church, family, and organizations and the atomization of the American individual means that the low-conscientiousness people are no longer prevented by culture from making impulsive but bad decisions. Thus the women are obese with illegitimate children and the men are unemployed with a possible criminal past. Add to this a later age of first marriage that allows for a full decade of bad adult decision making and a significant part of the population is simply out of considering for anyone interested in maintaining a middle-class lifestyle.

It's unfortunate, but the alternative is worse.

With the social stigma removed about having kids out of wedlock and getting a divorce started to go away, this was a foreseeable outcome. Is that the alternative, or did you have something else in mind?

It goes beyond seeking others with the same educational background. All three of my young adult children will not date or mate those with student loans (one is recently married and another is engaged to be married). They don't want to pay off another person's debt or to them at least another persons disadvantage or in some cases poor choice. I did not tell them this. They figured it out while still undergraduates and another hard, cold reality in today's world. So it is a social AND economic decision.

All this chatter about fixing inequalities in K-12 education and no one has bothered to mention school choice. Only school choice will even out the playing field and lead to better educational outcomes for the poor.

What if the rich make better choices?

No, we need to let the poor and rich choose at first, and then swap their choices, so the rich so where the poor wanted to go, and the poor go where the rich wanted to go.

A lower class woman in the early 20th century would have had to be pretty clever in the art of feminine charm to land an upper class man. Markers of intelligence aren't confined to people who obtain college degrees.

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