The reversal of the gender gap in education and its impact on union formation: an end to hypergamy?

Joan Garcia Roman, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED)
Albert Esteve, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED)
Marc Ajenjo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The educational expansion that most countries of the world have witnessed in recent decades has been accompanied by a reduction of the gender gap in educational attainment. In some countries, younger cohorts of women are attaining higher levels of education than men of the same cohorts. In this paper we focus on the effect of the closing gender gap in education on a specific dimension of union formation in which education plays a relevant role: assortative mating. We take a cross-national perspective to examine worldwide whether the increase in women’s educational attainment has led to greater gender symmetry in union formation. First, we explore among young cohorts the relationship between the gender gap in educational attainment and two measures of female hypergamy. We distinguish between crude and net hypergamy. Second, we explain differences between countries by taking into consideration other factors that may have a role in the relationship between gender gap and hypergamy: i) Marriage prevalence by education; ii) Universality of marriage; ii) Maturity of the educational system; iii) Educational homogamy; iv) Informal unions. Together with the gender gap, these variables will be framed into a multilevel ordinary least square regression model. We use integrated census microdata samples from the IPUMS international database. Our analysis is based on 83 census samples from 38 countries covering all major regions of the world. The study is limited to persons aged 25-34 old. We consider both formal and informal unions. Preliminary results show that advances in women’s education clearly reduces the number of hypergamous couples and even reverses the pattern of hypergamy. The strength of this relationship weakens when we measure hypergamy using net indicators that control for the availability of candidates in the marriage market.

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Presented in Session 97: Impact of educational changes on family dynamics