The romance of college attendance: Higher education stratification and mate selection

Richard Arum, Josipa Roksa, Michelle J. Budig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Educational achievement has increasingly replaced ascriptive social background as a factor structuring marital choice and generating homogamous unions. Analyzing data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine a particular aspect of this larger phenomenon by focusing on the extent to which institutional stratification across colleges contributed to social inequality through spousal selection for individuals who completed college by the mid-1970s. We demonstrate that one-third of college graduates who married/cohabitated with an individual with similar educational attainment married/cohabitated with someone who attended colleges with identical institutional characteristics. We also find that college stratification structured marital choices regarding the social and economic resources partners bring to marriage or cohabitating unions: women's more elite college attendance was associated with marrying/cohabitating with a man with higher subsequent annual income; while men's more elite college attendance was associated with marrying/cohabitating with a woman from more privileged social origins.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)107-121
    Number of pages15
    JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2008



    • College outcomes
    • Education
    • Marital choice
    • Social origins
    • Social stratification

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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