penny and leonard
Women with more education than their husbands are more likely to stay married. If only Penny and Leonard had known.

We know that education can influence everything from income to political leanings, but what about marriage markets?

Past studies have suggested that marriages where wives have higher levels of education than their husbands were at greater risk of dissolution. This may reflect prior gender roles and expectations within heterosexual marriages that relegated women to the domestic sphere. With today’s reversal of the gender gap in education, sociologists Christine Schwartz and Hongyun Han reexamined how education could potentially affect current marriage markets. Using various data sets including the National Survey of Family Growth, Schwartz and Han analyzed marriage trends between 1950 and 2004 to see what education trends emerged.

They found that prior to the 1980s, husbands were more likely to have higher levels of education than their wives. Since then, things have changed dramatically: “For couples married in 2005 to 2009, in over 60 percent of couples with different levels of education, wives had more education than their husbands, and there are no signs this trend is slowing.” Additionally, they found that educated women are less likely to have marriages that end in divorce, which likely reflects “shifts in the institution of marriage away from rigid gender specialization and toward more flexible, egalitarian partnerships.”

For education researchers, this study suggests that education – and all the multifaceted values, beliefs, and lifestyles associated with it – may provide a key contribution to shifts towards gender equality and egalitarian partnerships.

Read the full article here:

Christine R. Schwartz and Hongyun Han. 2014. “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Marital Dissolution.American Sociological Review 79(4) 605-629.

Caty Taborda is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies gender, race, health, and the body.