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Hypergamy is an observed phenomenon in which women seek to pair bond with men of higher social and economic status. This is sometimes colloquially referred to as marrying up.[1]

An equivalent hypergamous behaviour in men would be to seek to pair bond with young and fertile women.[2]

Studies of mate selection in dozens of countries around the world have found men and women report prioritising different traits when it comes to choosing a mate, with both groups favouring attractive partners in general, but men tending to prefer women who are young while women tend to prefer men who are rich, well-educated, and ambitious.[3]

An empirical study examined the mate preferences of subscribers to a computer dating service in Israel that had a highly skewed sex ratio (646 men for 1,000 women). Despite this skewed sex ratio, they found that:

"On education and socioeconomic status, women on average express greater hypergamic selectivity; they prefer mates who are superior to them in these traits... while men express a desire for an analogue of hypergamy based on physical attractiveness; they desire a mate who ranks higher on the physical attractiveness scale than they themselves do."[4]

Current Trends

It is becoming less common for women to marry older men. Hypergamy does not require the man to be older, however older men have had longer to acquire wealth and power.[5][6]

In a 2016 paper that explored the income difference between couples in 1980 and 2012, researcher Yue Qian noted that the tendency for women to marry men with higher incomes than themselves still persists in the modern era.[7]

Hypergamy is widely accepted today, and even recognised in the mainstream media:

"Evolutionary psychologists say that women tend to be more attracted to men who are more highly educated and/or out-earn them because sex can bring great costs for women – namely pregnancy and childbirth."[8]

See Also

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