Gone are the times when men were the sole breadwinners and women had to “marry up” to improve their lifestyle and social status, even if they already had ample financial resources. While the number of higher educated and higher-earning women goes up, the rate of women who “marry down” has increased.
What does it mean to “marry down?” It means to marry someone whose social status, education, or income is “lower” than yours. The formal term for “marrying down” is “hypogamy,” which is the opposite of “hypergamy.”
A bit of history
Hypogamy has been practiced more by men than women in the past. The display of power, control, and prestige have been big motivators for men to choose a less educated wife who did not have any income. In some cultures today and even in the past, it is the opposite, and men have married for hefty dowries bestowed by the parents of their betrothed.
Needless to say that this genre differentiation, availed by society and institutions, has created a deeply rooted bias around how far women can go socially, professionally, and economically. Luckily though, times have changed for women who want to choose to marry for love over funds. Women have become more independent and tilted the scale in their favor, contributing to some women’s choice of hypogamy and facilitating a dominant female role in society.
Hypogamy has long been associated with a choice made by men for men. Before WW2, educated women were less appealing to men. First of all, these women were less willing to sacrifice their careers for a family or an inegalitarian marriage. Secondly, men saw higher education as a lack of femininity and female financial independence as a threat to peaceful family life. In the post-war, perceptions slowly started to change. Men and women were starting to realize that education and the desire for a successful career were not necessarily incompatible with family life. Also, the rise of unemployment made it very risky to rely only on men to put the bread on the table, and women’s jobs, even if often less well paid, could provide a safety net if things went south.
But changes in how and who we marry are not just the results of changes in men’s preferences and strategies, as researcher Milan Bouchet-Valant points out. Women’s way of seeing marriage has also changed. Their financial independence gives them greater freedom, and many of them are keen to wait for a partner who can provide non-material comforts and correspond to their wishes. Less reliant on their future husbands’ careers, women can finally focus on other qualities.
A bit of data
In their research, ChangHwan Kim, from the University of Kansas, and his colleague Arthur Sakamoto, from Texas A&M University, used US census data comparing 1990 and 2000 to the 2009-2011 American Community Survey. The results were surprising. In the 1990s, about 26% of women married down, and 37% of women “married up.” In 2010 the numbers were reversed, with 35% of women “marrying down” and 27% of women “marrying up.”
In a revealing study, Anthony Rafetto, from Columbia University, showed that male college students’ attitudes towards female hypogamy changed drastically between the 80s and 90s. When asked whether they would be bothered if their partners earned a higher salary, almost 60% said “it wouldn’t bother me at all” in 1990, up from just 41% in 1980. This data goes hand in hand with another figure, showing female work hypogamy increasing from 7% in the 60s to 29% in the 2010s. It’s more than a double increase! Rafetto also points out that when women’s socioeconomic status is higher than men’s, women feel more comfortable choosing a partner based on different factors, like love, happiness, and emotional availability.
This drastic reverse of the trend has profound implications for us all. First of all, it should make men think and acknowledge that a woman’s quality of life is not entirely dependent on them. Women are also financially contributing, and their wealth as a family has increased because of their higher income. In Western societies, on many occasions, women are also the only breadwinner in the family. Time for men to embrace feminism with a bit more enthusiasm? We think so!
Why “Marrying Down” can be Great for Some Women
Women have worked very hard to build their own careers in a world dominated by men, so it’s only understandable that they don’t want to give that up. They want to feel in control of their lives and relationships, and having higher education and earning more than their partners, is a way to assert their dominance and independence.
These women are keen to establish new power dynamics and create relationships where control is replaced with cooperation. As a reflection of this, men today are more willing to share childcare responsibilities and housework tasks, and institutions facilitate a better work-life balance for women.
As Dr. Sonya Rhodes, author of the book “Alpha Woman meets her match”, says, women, today are ambitious and driven, and many aren’t compatible with traditional dominant Alpha men. Such men will assume that their priorities are more important, while strong, successful Alpha women will not back down from what they achieved. These women need smart, collaborative partners who are not threatened by their power but are still confident enough to own who they are, follow and lead in equal measure.
Some women don’t want someone to provide for them, control them, and make all the decisions – they don’t need that anymore. They want supportive partners, who share their values, stand by their side, and take care of their emotional needs. They want a real partnership that just isn’t about status, social hierarchies, or income!
In this sense, hypogamy is not synonymous with settling down, rather a choice. Women want to be free to choose for themselves the partner who they think is best for them.
At Fusion Movement, we believe in Female Primacy, and we support women’s choice of practicing hypogamy. You’re the only person who knows what’s best for you and what will make you happy. Some women may want to assert their dominance in both their private and public life and rejoice in their success by sharing it with a partner who doesn’t feel threatened by them but, on the contrary, cherishes and respects them.
We encourage you to explore all the ways you can assert yourself as the Alpha woman you are. Bookmark our site and join the movement for more interesting tools and resources.