Wives now better educated than hubbies
The number of couples in which the woman has a higher level of university studies than her male partner is growing steadily and in many countries this trend surpasses the opposite situation, which historically has been the predominant, a new study has revealed.
To reach the conclusion, the Centre for Demographic Studies of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (CED-UAB) conducted a research in 56 countries to study the effects an increase in education levels amongst women are having on heterosexual relationship patterns.
The research also sets the bases to delve deeper into the social dimensions this change in model may represent.
The study conducted by Albert Esteve, Joan Garcia-Roman and Inaki Permanyer analyses the effects on couples when there are more women than men with university studies. To do this they gathered data from 138 censuses in 56 countries, dating from 1968 to 2009.
The study concluded that higher education levels in women has a direct effect on union formation. Such is the effect that in countries in which there are more women than men with university studies, the number of couples in which the woman unites "downwards" (with a man with lesser studies) surpasses those who unite "upwards" (with a man with more studies).
Traditionally in heterosexual couples, the dominating pattern existing was the educational hypergamy of the woman, a type of relationship in which the woman marries a man with a higher educational attainment and in which there are important gender differences.
In recent years however, an easier access to education for women is altering this model.
"Given this historical inertia, one could consider that the increase in education amongst women would make forming unions more difficult and raise the number of single women. However, what we see is that the composition of couples adapts quite well to these structural changes and that if these changes take place, sooner or later they will have an effect on the marriage market," Albert Esteve stated.
If the trends in education continue, prevalence in educational hypergamy will continue to decrease, researchers said.
This scenario suggests that the increase in education level amongst women can have important effects on traditional relationship models and represents a step forward in reaching symmetry when forming relationships.
"It will be interesting to observe whether this change develops into more equality between men and women in other aspects of their life (decision-making, distribution of home tasks, divorce, fertility, etc.)", Albert Esteve commented.
The study calls for more research - from a wider perspective - on the consequences these changes may have in the distribution of gender roles.
The research was published in Population Development Review, one of the most prestigious journals dedicated to population studies.