Phi Beta Cons

Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women: The College Connections

Christine Whelan’s new book of that title has been attracting much interest on campuses. She has been speaking and doing book signings, for example, at the Columbia Women in Business conference, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women has numerous tie-ins to higher education:

Marriage rates are increasing among college-educated men and women, even if the marriage age is older: According to the 2006 Current Population Survey data, among 35- to 39-year-old women, 88% with advanced degrees have married, compared with 81% of women without college degrees.


Increased education leads to better marriages and stronger families. College graduates are less likely to divorce – and more specifically, families with highly educated mothers are half as likely to split, according to an upcoming article in Demographic Research by Steven P. Martin, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. Looking at marriages that began between 1990 and 1994, Mr. Martin found that, of marriages in which the wife had a college education (or more), only 16.5% dissolved in the first 10 years, compared with 38% in which the wife had only a high-school diploma.


In a Harris Interactive poll that Whelan commissioned earlier this year on this topic, 71% of men who earn in the top 10% for their age groups, or who have a graduate degree, said that a woman’s career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife, and 68% believe that smart women make better mothers. Not surprisingly, then, 90% of high-achieving men say that they want to marry – or have already married – a woman who is as intelligent as they are, or more intelligent.


The trend of more women pursuing higher education (women earn the majority of college and master’s degrees, and are reaching parity in professional and doctoral degrees as well) means that Americans are marrying a bit later, but, as a country, we’re marrying smarter. (College graduation rates for men have increased as well; an all-time high of 28% of them has a bachelor’s degree or more.)

Whelan says young women should not turn away from pursuing higher education out of fear that they won’t get married, as the opposite is true. It is good news that they are figuring out new ways to achieve their educational and family goals.


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