Rich Like Me: How Assortative Mating Is Driving Income Inequality Author: Branko Milanovic
Many “modern” Indians and several Westerners find the Indian concept of “arranged marriage” quaint. This fascinating piece by economist Branko Milanovic shows that increasingly marriages in the West are basically arranged – not by parents but by institutions like universities or workplaces. As a result, Western economies are increasingly going to resemble India’s – a tiny elite which breeds & socialises amongst itself and a ‘left behind’ rest of the economy which votes for politicians promising pride, patriotism and sundry punishments perfidious people.
In fact Milanovic says that the Western reality is even more soul-destroying than that: from the moment you are born into the American elite, it is pretty much pre-ordained what sort of person you will marry and how your life will pan-out: ““When I went to [Ivy League institution], I knew that I would marry a woman I met there. Women also knew the same thing. We all knew that our pool of desirable marriage candidates would never be as vast again. And then whomever I married would be a specimen of the same genre: They were all well-educated, smart women who came from the same social class, read the same novels and newspapers, dressed the same, had the same preferences about restaurants, hiking, places to live, cars to drive and people to see, as well about how to take care of the kids and what schools they should attend. It really made almost no difference socially whom among them I married.””
Why does this happen? “Almost everyone at the top schools comes from more or less equally affluent families, and almost everyone adopts more or less the same values and tastes. And such mutually indistinguishable people marry each other.
Recent research has documented a clear increase in the prevalence of homogamy, or assortative mating (people of the same or similar education status and income level marrying each other). A study based on a literature review combined with decennial data from the American Community Survey showed that the association between partners’ level of education was close to zero in 1970; in every other decade through 2010, the coefficient was positive, and it kept on rising. A different database provides another perspective on this trend; it looks at marriage statistics for American women and men who married when they were “young,” that is, between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. In 1970, only 13 percent of young American men who were in the top decile of male earners married young women who were in the top decile of female earners. By 2017, that figure had risen to almost 29 percent.”
In fact, this trend of assortative mating – i.e. affluent people marrying other affluent people – is growing even more rapidly amongst Western women than men: “An even more dramatic change happened for women: the percentage of young high-earning women marrying young high-earning men increased from just under 13 percent to 26.4 percent, while the percentage of rich young women marrying poor young men halved. From having no preference between rich and poor men in the 1970s, women currently prefer rich men by a ratio of almost five to one.”