Disparities in college education might explain much of the gap in marriage

In Why do most societies have 90-95% marriage rates (at some points) I noted some of the various points such men having higher status as some of the reasons why the assortive mating has dropped.

One of the most recent IFS blog articles on What the Latest Current Population Survey Tells Us About the Future of Fertility has a good chart confirming this. Basically at least up until the 1950s, women married consistently at a 95% rate. However, as the free love and sexual revolutions generations started kicking off in the 1960s and 1970s it has been trending down over time.

I’ve theorized on several articles that it could reach the 20-30% range with the latest generations giving the delays in marriage and overall dropping patterns.

Several articles have started talking about the men in college gap. One from WSJ is more of an interview piece (though behind a paywall), but the IFS blog on Boys Are Falling Farther and Farther Behind Their Sisters: Should We Care? attempts to tackle it too.

There is a growing gender gap in higher education. According to the latest figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center: as of spring 2021, women accounted for 59.5% of students attending colleges and universities nationwide. Among four-year private colleges, women now account for 61% of all students. Both figures represent new records. Douglas Shapiro, executive director of research at the National Student Clearinghouse, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that if current trends continue, within a few years there will be two women graduating from college for every one man.

Well, so what? In 1970, men accounted for 58% of students attending colleges and universities, and there was no great outcry back then about the gender imbalance. Why should we be concerned now that the pendulum has swung in the other direction?

I think there are good reasons for concern, which can be summed up in three words: “educational assortative mating.” Educational assortative mating means that if a woman has earned a four-year degree and she is looking for a husband, she will usually choose a man whose educational achievement is equal to or greater than her own. Fifty years ago, if a man earned a four-year degree and was looking for a woman to marry, he might have many qualifications in mind for his future wife; but educational attainment was not one of them. In that era, college-educated men were happy to marry women who had never attended college. In our era, college-educated women are hoping to marry college-educated men. And there are not enough college-educated men to go around.

The article continues to go deeper into cultural changes against masculinity and pro femininity that have pushed those trends that way over time from 58% of men in 1970 to 41% of men in 2021. However, the author really doesn’t take it far enough as others have done in which the educational system is biased against men and there is an informal/formal war on boys in many cases.

The gap though between men and women stands at 59% – 41% = 18% populational gap between men and women in higher education. Given that women are hypergamous, it wouldn’t be too far off to say that a lot of women aren’t too happy with marrying down. Education is one of those as both a status symbol and for earning potential as college graduates (who don’t choose liberal arts degrees) have much higher earning potential than their non-college graduate peers. 

Women’s overall physical attractiveness was positively correlated with all six of the good investment abilities, in four cases significantly so—income potential, good earning capacity, college graduate, and older then self.

I suspect the 18% gap is a large portion of the 20-30% unmarried we’ll see as if hypergamy isn’t satisfied women will not want to marry, and the rest at the moment seems to be centered around the sub-cultures in various lower income areas. There’s been much speculation (and correct, I think) that marriage is mostly a middle to upper-middle to upper class construct nowadays. Of course, cohabitation takes up some of that percentage but not all of it.

Of course, this also correlates with the fact that The Ideal Husband? A Man in Possession of a Good Income .

As Figure 1 illustrates, for men, as income increases, the probability of marriage also increases such that men in the highest income category are about 57 percentage points more likely to marry than men in the lowest income category. The same is not true for women. High income men are more likely than low income men to marry, while income is unrelated to marriage for women. Given that marriage involves choice on both the man and the woman’s part, these results suggest that women are more likely to choose to marry men with good financial prospects, while a woman’s financial prospects are less important to men when choosing a marriage partner.

Not only are high-income men more likely to marry, they are more likely to stay married, too. Figure 2 shows the probability of divorce for those who have been married at least once, and reveals that for men the probability of divorce declines as income rises, such that men in the highest income category are about 37 percentage points less likely to divorce than men in the lowest income category. For women the probability of divorce increases as income rises, perhaps mostly due to reverse causality and the fact that divorced women are more likely to have to support themselves financially. For men, the results suggest that women are more likely to divorce low income men than high income men.

We already knew this though. Men that are more wealthy are more likely to marry, and if a man loses his job or earns less than a woman she is more likely to divorce. In the case of women divorcing, it’s the hypergamous impulse that drives it but she can generally support herself as well and doesn’t need her husband.

Ironically, all of these IFS blogs are by different authors, but they are connected.

Overall, for men who want to be married, being college educated and/or having good income prospects (if non-college educated) are usually looked at highly by women. However, they are not the only things that women are looking for attraction-wise at least — the rest of PSAL in PSALMs and masculinity.

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6 Responses to Disparities in college education might explain much of the gap in marriage

  1. Jack Russell says:

    I know of men in trades who make 100K plus, but college “educated” women will not give them the time of day. Just as well. Marrying most educated women is like buying a rental car. Had many drivers. Someone else got to enjoy it when it was new unfortunately.

  2. cameron232 says:

    Jack Russell I get the impression a lot of women consider blue collar men low status which is unfortunate because these men do useful work compared to most college educated men and can make good money. Useless pencil pusher with an MBA is higher status?!!!

  3. @ Jack Russell

    I know of men in trades who make 100K plus, but college “educated” women will not give them the time of day. Just as well. Marrying most educated women is like buying a rental car. Had many drivers. Someone else got to enjoy it when it was new unfortunately.

    Yeah, I’ve heard reports about that as well. Ironically, there are lot of graduate degree professions that don’t make more than 100k.

    If a woman is going to look down on you for something like that then they dodged a bullet.

  4. locustsplease says:

    I am a blue collar self employed worker. My income will b close to 100 this year but really the next year is going to huge. Basically what you start a business for. Im not gonna let them know ive got a penny. College educated women and all women perplex me.

    On paper they would all say NO i will not have sex with or marry any man in that career who comes home absolutely filthy every day gross! Then there is reality im like a 6’3″ dog that needs a bath. Since i work hard lift and run i am physically completely different than 40yo white collar men. Career gals cant get enough the prettiest ones come after me strongly. But i know they didnt go to college to marry a guy like me. I know they have talked lots of trash on blue collar men because i heard it when i was low on the totem pole, in their hallucinations they will all land attractive doctors they should keep their dreams.

    And you almost cant impress college educated women with anything. Half of them get brand new cars when they leave home. All of them at my church drive very nice vehicles. Idk if i can make a house wife out of some one who has a new lexus at 23?

  5. Sun River says:

    I’m familiar with the Psalms of the bible, and this might be a dumb question. What does
    “…PSAL in PSALMs” mean?

  6. @ Sun River

    I’m familiar with the Psalms of the bible, and this might be a dumb question. What does
    “…PSAL in PSALMs” mean?

    PSALM / LAMPS is a the acronym for traits that are attractive to women that I’ve used extensively on this blog popularized by Donalgraeme.

    P – Power
    S – Status
    A – Athleticism
    L – Looks
    M – Money

    As well as Masculinity too.

    Those are generally what women are sexually attracted to while men tend to be sexually attracted to beauty, youth, and femininity. Fetishes not withstanding

    More about that here:


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