Volume 44 - Article 7 | Pages 157–188  

Educational assortative mating and the decline of hypergamy in 27 European countries: An examination of trends through cohorts

By Dávid Erát


Background: Theories of partner selection emphasize the principal role of available partners in the relationship market. As education is a common socioeconomic attribute through which individuals choose a mate, macrostructure theory highlights the importance of the asymmetric change in educational attainment seen in Europe. As women increasingly participate in tertiary education, this restructuring might result in the decline of traditional hypergamous unions.

Objective: We aim to verify previous results confirming the decline of educational hypergamy and the rise of hypogamy, which has been found to be related to women’s growing educational advantage. We also wish to provide a current picture of this process in Europe by looking at the youngest cohort available during the analysis.

Methods: We pooled nine waves of the European Social Survey and examined trends in seven cohorts. Apart from simple percentage differences in education, we reconstructed the indices of female educational advantage (F-index) and the prevalence of hypergamy (H-index), with provided correlation statistics and fitted linear trend lines.

Results: Our results corroborated the findings of previous multi-country analyses. In nearly all selected countries, women were more present in higher education than men, resulting in a uniform increase in the female educational advantage. Parallel to this, hypergamy declined through the cohorts, which correlated with women’s emerging educational lead.

Contribution: Our results verify the findings from previous years, using a newer dataset and detailed cohort perspective, and confirm the decline of hypergamy as women gain advantage in education, with only four countries out of 27 showing some remnants of a male educational lead.

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