Ever noticed how people date people similar to themselves? Or ever mistook someone’s boyfriend for their sibling? This is because people tend to gravitate towards people of similar looks, age, interests, personality and education. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen:
Owners and their pets:
Thanks to fairy tales and the romance entertainment industry, 80% of people apparently believe that ‘opposites attract’; however, it is really a rare occurrence in the dating world. A more accurate portrayal of the dating scene is a term used by economists known as ‘assortative mating’. Assortative mating suggests that dating is not random, but that people choose partners in an ordered fashion. People choose others dependent on specific criteria revolving around their looks, level of education and interests. A study has found that the level of attraction to a person increases as their similarities do. Assortative mating, in the strictest sense, would see the “best” women married to the “best” men and the second-best to the second-best to the second-best and so on. As people marry on an assortment basis, the gap between families grows in term of income and education level as the poor marry the poor and the rich marry the rich.
I know, everyone loves a Cinderella story, but I’ll have to pop the fairy tale bubble and inform you that the story of Cinderella will likely never happen in the real world. Cinderella, the poor, little-educated, low-skilled maid would have fallen far below the prince’s criteria for dating. From an economic, scientific and very unromantic viewpoint, Cinderella would have married a butler and the prince, a princess.
People pair with people similar to themselves for a number of reasons, one being the location they meet. Couples often meet in the workplace or through university. Generally, people in the same locations are bound to have similar interests, income and of levels of education. The online dating world, including apps such as Tinder and Bumble, should supposedly give people the opportunity to meet people outside of their general campus and workplace.
The online world opens up your limited dating pool and turns what an economist would call a ‘thin market’ into a ‘dense market’ with many available dating options. The online world allows people to search for a partner outside of their normal social group. However, people continue to match with those like them, as people window shop on Tinder for others with similar jobs, university degrees and interests. It is believed that the online world has fuelled assortative mating and increased the inequality between couples.
As the equality between people within relationships grows, so does the inequality between households. Gone are the days of uneducated women. Now, more than ever women are tertiary educated, highly skilled and found in highly paid jobs. Statistics in the US show that the level of education of women in the labour force has risen with 45% having a tertiary education, compared to 11% in 1970. The increase in education is a change from the mid-late 1900s when male doctors were likely to marry nurses. Nowadays, thanks to assortative mating and a rise in educated women, male doctors are much more likely to marry female doctors.
Successful men are now marrying equally successful women and creating power households. Data from the US shows that 71% of college graduates are married to other college graduates. This suggests that people are pairing to people with similar education levels to themselves, this would mean that the higher educated are marrying the higher educated and the lower educated are marrying the lower educated. These couples then have children and often see their children following the same path as their parents, which can create a cycle knownas the cycle of disadvantage.
Children in lower income families are more likely to get a lessor or inferior education than their higher earning counterparts. In Australia, the cycle of disadvantage is also prominent, with 58% of children from lowincome earner families receiving a HSC compared to 77% of children from a high income earning family. Lower education leads to lower skills and fewer job opportunities. As these children grow they can struggle to find jobs, end up welfare dependant, and have children to partners in a similar position to themselves . The children then continue the cycle of disadvantage, often worse off than their parents. As the cycle continues, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, growing the income gap.
Dating on an assortment basis is problematic to say the least. But if someone wants to date a carbon copy of themselves who’s to say they can’t? Love is love, and dating someone with similar interests to yourself often means you’ll enjoy eachothers company. There’s nothing worse than being one-on-one with someone and the only conversation you’ve got is “How’s this Brisbane weather… four seasons in one day”. People are going to continue to marry their like, which will see the inequality between households continue to grow. To help the inequality between household society needs to support the children of the disadvantaged so that they are able to break the cycle. The Government needs to put in place programs and policies to help young children in disadvantage positions; to keep them in school and give them the same opportunities that children born into a better financial position have.