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Coming Apart
Elite Intermarriage on the Rise

A fascinating new paper by Robert Mare, a sociologist at UCLA, gives a first-of-its kind picture of trends in “educational homogamy” (the tendency of people to marry others with similar levels of education) over the course of the twentieth century. The result is what Mare calls a “great U-turn.” Educational homogamy was very high at the turn of the 20th century (the Gilded Age), then “declined to an all-time low for young couples in the early 1950s, and has increased steadily since then.”

High levels of education-based assortative mating are likely both a cause and consequence of economic inequality. It’s a cause because children born to two highly educated parents have more resources at their disposal than two children born to less-educated parents, and it’s a consequence because a wide social distance between groups may make them less likely to intermingle. Regardless of its relationship with economic inequality, however, it’s clear that the steady rise of educational homogamy is indicative an ever-more siloed elite (a group that, in our opinion, is increasingly out of touch with non-elites, and increasingly beholden to establishmentarian groupthink).

The irony here is that a partial cause of this trend is the rise of meritocracy. Today, women are more likely to go to college and peoples’ wages are more tightly correlated with their education, which increases the incentive to marry someone of a similar educational status. These developments are related to the end of class-based privilege and the rise of a fairer, more egalitarian system. And yet, a byproduct of our hyper-meritocracy is an ever-more pronounced system of educational assortative mating that makes our society more stratified and more unequal.

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  • The Herrnstein centrifuge has been working for some time now.

    • Laurence Levin

      A couple of months ago I was describing the thesis of the over 20 year old Bell Curve that there will be a growing split in our society caused by the growth in meritocracy, to a liberal friend of mine. He responded by saying they sure got that right. I then told him that the book was written by Charles Murray. He looked confused and said “but I thought Murray was just a racist pseudo-scientist”.

      • Ellen

        This anecdote tells you about the caliber of our liberal elite. If Murray’s thesis is correct, this fellow’s descendants will be on the declining part of the curve. Perhaps that is why he calls the Bell Curve theory “racist”. When liberals don’t like some social trend, they call the people who discuss it “racist”.

  • Ellen

    Charles Murray wrote about this in his book with Herrnstein about 20 years ago. Endogamy, however defined (by race, religion, ethnicity, class, education, etc) is the normal condition of the human race. Marrying someone of a completely different background than yourself is abnormal for the obvious reason that the couple would have nothing in common to talk about and share except basic drives that humans share with animals. Being surprised and opposed to endogamy in this particular case is just another example of PC thinking.

    • Jim__L

      You can always talk about the kids.

      Unless you don’t have kids.

      • Ellen

        True, but you have to raise the kids. How would two people with completely different educational levels or different set of core values and beliefs raise children together? Marriage patterns, just like residential living patterns, are not random. They reflect the social and moral environment people want to live in and raise their children in. That holds for PC white liberals, as much as they hate to admit it. Excuse me, how many of them choose to live in the South Bronx and raise their children in that particular environment? None.

        • Jim__L

          Well, if people recognized and valued the individual contributions of differing backgrounds, and were willing to have some humility about the value of their own, that might be a start.

          (If you’ll forgive a tangent — In a lot of ways it’s very sad that “Diversity” is about bashing Dead White Males, not about thinking deeply about the actual merits of anyone’s point of view. And as a further tangent, it’s really disturbing to me that in so many popular entertainments aimed at children / young adults in the last few years, it’s become so popular to kill off as many father-figure mentors as possible.)

    • Andrew Allison

      You mean to say that oil and water don’t mix? I’m SHOCKED! [grin]

  • Jim__L

    Please note that women are keenly aware of the status and prestige of their suitors. I would bet that it is *extremely* rare for women to marry “beneath” them in terms of status, education, and income.

    I would further bet that in the 1950s, the mixing of educational classes only occurred with a man marrying a less-educated woman. I’d further bet that these women were strikingly good looking, too.

    The second and third wave of Feminism have a societal blights, in a lot of unexamined ways. Whether there’s a fourth wave that addresses these fatal shortcomings remains to be seen.

  • Fat_Man

    This is certainly an intended consequence of allowing the elite colleges to control their own admissions policies. It consolidates the elite, and isolates it from outside influences.

    College admissions by random draw open to all high school graduates, would solve this problem too.

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