Monday, February 17, 2014

Fairy Tale Romances Are Fairy Tales

Cinderella may never be more than a fairy tale. The high-flyers in society are becoming less likely to find love outside their peer group, a US study has found.

Instead of company bosses marrying their secretaries and doctors their nurses, the intelligentsia and the wealthy are increasingly pairing off into power couples at university — or “mating factories”, as one sociologist has described them. This “educational segregation” is resulting in increasing inequality. Research by the US National Bureau of Economic Research found a marked rise in “positive assortative mating” — marrying someone similar to yourself. The trend widens the income gap between households because, for example, two married lawyers earn far more than two supermarket shelf-stackers.

The study of US census data, led by Jeremy Greenwood at Pennsylvania University, found 48 per cent of married men with university degrees in 2005 had wed female graduates, up from 25 per cent in 1960. The trend was the same for women, with 44 per cent of married female graduates in 2005 wedded to male university graduates, an increase of 11 percentage points on the 1960 figure. It happens at the lower end of the social spectrum too. In 2005, 59 per cent of US wives with a high-school diploma were married to men with the same education. In 1960, it was 42 per cent.

The rewards for marrying another high achiever are clear. A couple who both studied to postgraduate level in 1960 could earn 76 per cent above the average income, but by 2005 they earned 119 per cent more. By contrast, a household with a postgraduate wife and a high-school dropout husband had an income 40 per cent above the average in 1960, but 8 per cent below by 2005.

As a result of positive assortative mating, the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality by using a score of zero for absolute equality and 1.0 for absolute inequality, had risen from 0.34 in 1960 to 0.43 in 2005.

Stephen Machin, professor of economics at University College London, is nearing the completion of a similar study using British and US data. His work will conclude that inequality is being caused by those of similar education levels marrying in a “remarkably similar” manner on both sides of the Atlantic.

A prince marries his own kind.

No comments: