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If you disagreed later on in the nineteenth century with the view that women ought not to be educated because it would cause their brains to enlarge at the expense of the rest of them — the more important rest of them — then you were a feminist. If you took the view that novel reading was not necessarily a destructive social activity, you might have been a feminist. This is open to question. If you entered the twentieth century and took the position that women had the right to their own property, which was certainly denied to them under nineteenth century English law, you would have been a feminist. In the nineteenth century women were considered adults from the point of view of responsibilities but children from the point of view of rights, and in a marriage a husband could, at will — as Charles Dickens did — remove the children from his wife, send her off to live by herself, and that was completely legal. You also had the right to commit your wife to an insane asylum on your word alone.


This has affected first union formation and the traditional tendency — known as female hypergamy — for women to form unions with men who are more educated than themselves.

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Disentangling structural effects from gender effects, he questions the existence of a norm of female hypergamy capable of withstanding the changing gender composition of the highly educated, and reveals deep-seated changes in the prevalence of male and female permanent singlehood by educational level. In many societies, this behaviour takes the form of female hypergamy or male hypogamy, i. The family being a central institution of socialization and social reproduction, one may suspect that constructing a position of inferiority for women represents a key factor of male dominance and its persistence across generations.

The level of education is one of the key items of information available to individuals — consciously or unconsciously — when they meet potential partners.

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On the contrary, jobs occupied over the working career may partly reflect choices made after union formation, making it difficult to clearly discern the gendered criteria of partner choice. The educational expansion that occurred in France after the Second World War affected both sexes, but girls especially Baudelot and Establet, Now that women are more highly educated, on average, than men, couples where the woman is more academically qualified than her partner have inevitably become more frequent than the reverse Guichard-Claudic et al.

If women are to develop the potential to overtake their partners in their careers, then a high cultural capital, even if not always used in working life — or not fully at least — is an essential prerequisite. Alongside other major transformations, such as the massive growth in female labour force participation, this movement may contribute to a change in the balance of power within the couple, and hence a questioning of gender roles — even if it probably lacks the strength to produce a result of this kind on its own.

These findings suggest a need to revise an outdated conception of the relationship between gender, education and union formation whereby a high level of education is a handicap for women on the marriage market. This article looks more closely at this shift in behaviours by examining changes across cohorts in France.

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Last, we will analyse changes in permanent singlehood by sex and education using an accelerated failure time model to reveal the link between gendered distribution of singlehood and hypergamy. The article concludes with a discussion of the uncertain impact of the observed changes on gender inequality in other areas. In a model where women are generally in a position of inferiority, the reproduction of the social order requires that male dominance be respected within the family, the central institution for the interiorization of gender roles Goffman, Under this rationale, men choose wives of lower social status than themselves, and vice-versa.

Such behaviours reflect the interiorization of dominant norms Bozon,the desire to avoid social disapproval — either explicit or implicit — or simply to forestall the negative feedback to which couples who violate these norms are exposed Lefeuvre, ; Testenoire, Male superiority within the couple also ensures that, in most social situations, the roles ased to man and woman are spontaneously assumed, thereby consolidating gender stereotypes in the face of realities that may challenge them.

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This is the case, for example, for the allocation of physical tasks to men, given that the man is generally taller and hence, by convention, stronger than his spouse more frequently than pure chance would dictate Goffman, ; Herpin, This pattern was perpetuated all the way down the social scale.

Two mechanisms may for this phenomenon. As remaining in education was deemed to be incompatible with union formation, especially before the advent of modern contraception, educated women were not available on the marriage market until a relatively late age.

Men therefore preferred to pair up with women who had little education but who were no longer in school — given that choosing an older, highly qualified, woman violated the norm of female hypergamy in terms of both age and cultural capital. This mechanism made it very difficult for educated single women above a certain age to find a partner. On the one hand, educated women with more to lose on the labour market were less willing than other women to sacrifice their career for the sake of a constricted family life or an inegalitarian marriage Cacouault, ; Kaufmann, ; these relatively high expectations were bolstered by the financial independence afforded by a working career.

In the eyes of men, on the other hand, a high qualification could be seen as a al of disinterest in family life, a lack of femininity and an independence that ran counter to their idea of married life de Singly, First, among couples that are already formed, the man more often has a higher level of education than the woman. Second, under the norm of female hypergamy, this situation persists beyond the constraints of partner availability relative hypergamy.

Last, alongside this majority of couples formed under the female hypergamy norm, the strongly gendered workings of the marriage market produce a large of outcasts — educated women and uneducated men — at opposite ends of the social scale. This change has radically altered the strongly gendered model described above. How has it affected female hypergamy? Considering all the above-mentioned changes, one would expect to observe a decline in relative terms i.

Indeed, given the sheer scale of the changes under way, they cannot have occurred without a radical shake-up of gender norms, and without a broader knock-on effect on this population group. In this respect, changes in norms, behaviours and social reproduction strategies are converging. Indeed, with the expansion of education, academic achievement has become a key factor of social stratification in all social groups. Without assuming that individuals apply an implacable logic to their romantic choices, it is reasonable to imagine that this new situation is contributing to a change in how men perceive the qualities of a potential partner, and to a weakening of the belief that education is incompatible with family life.

Their labour income gives them greater freedom to wait for a partner who corresponds to their wishes before committing themselves to a relationship. This is revealed in the adjectives — less often centred on work and protection, and more often on feelings — that they now use to describe him Bozon, While female labour force participation surged between the first and last cohorts in our study, and while the very nature of female employment has changed since the postwar period, gender equality in terms of wages and career advancement is still a distant prospect Maruani,and women still earn much less than their partner Morin, So one might rightly expect to observe a weakening of female hypergamy, but a weakening that is only partial, after controlling for changes in the educational distribution of the population.

It does not seem to be supported by existing research, however. Among the 18 countries for which the authors had data from the early s, female hypergamy was always more prevalent than hypogamy among young cohabiting couples at that time.

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But by the early s, the situation was reversed in 26 of the 51 countries included in the sample at that date. In a more detailed working paper, the same authors Esteve et al. No apparent divergence between absolute and relative hypergamy is observed : partner choice thus reinforces female hypergamy in societies where women are generally less educated than men, and hypogamy in those where they are more educated. In other words, the behaviour of individuals always seems to reflect and amplify the constraints imposed upon them by their social environment. This finding appears to question the existence of a hypergamy norm : nowhere does such a norm seem to have withstood the changes in educational distribution in favour of women.

David Monaghan observed that relative female hypogamy is stronger than relative hypergamy in 13 of the 26 developed countries studied between and average of the observed years, young cohabiting couples. Several studies of individual countries have found similar tendencies. In the United States, for example, Elaina Rose notes that educational hypergamy has practically disappeared, and Zhenchao Qianfollowed by Christine Schwartz and Robert Mareeven measured a reversal in absolute and relative terms.

Among these cohorts born between andfemale educational hypergamy is always less frequent than hypogamy — although the reverse is true in terms of occupational category. Last, in a study of cohabiting couples aged based on data from the French Labour Force surveys, we observed that female educational hypergamy became less frequent than hypogamy in around the year Bouchet-Valat, a. Unfortunately, trends in the level of permanent singlehood by educational level, indissociable from hypergamy, have rarely been studied. In the United States, however, E. Rose observed that alongside the reversal of hypergamy, the disproportionate of singles among the highest educated women also fell to more moderate levels while Goldstein and Kenney even noted a reversal here toobut also that singlehood increased among the least educated men.

Alongside the question of changing trends in hypergamy, it would be interesting to see whether the chances of finding a partner have followed a similar pattern in France. Our analysis is limited to individuals born between andaged at the time of the survey. This means that the first unions of individuals who have separated and possibly repartnered cannot be studied. This would introduce a slight bias if the couples who had separated were different from all first couples, for example, if they were mainly couples where the man was less educated than the woman, the traditional family model discouraging not only female hypogamy but also separation and divorce.

This bias is especially problematic for measuring changes over time, since the proportion of individuals who have only lived with one partner varies across cohorts Table 1falling slightly for the cohorts born after the war cohort effect. The proportion of individuals still living with their first partner follows the same pattern for men, but increases for women age effect linked to higher mortality of their partners. The scale of this effect is relatively small, however, given the small of couples concerned — especially if the oldest and youngest cohorts are excluded.

Such cases are quite rare in France, however.

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We also know that there is a reporting effect that varies with age Baudelot,though it is limited in scale. Nonetheless, to avoid the potential problem of over-interpreting minor changes over time, we will focus solely on the most clearcut trends. While the meaning of cohabitation has also changed over cohorts — this type of union is no longer a simple prelude to marriage Toulemon, — this definition seems the most appropriate for our study, since the aim here is to examine the first conjugal relationship.

By limiting the study to first unions, we can model the process of union formation and its changes by cohort ; this would have been impossible if unions of different orders had been included.

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Note that the qualification considered is the last one obtained by the individuals, whether before or after union formation. The models are estimated in the R environment R Core Team,in particular with an extension to the flexsurv package Jackson, Indeed, in societies where women generally spent less time in education than men, the prevalence of hypergamous couples could be explained without reference to individual preferences or the weight of social norms : structural constraints, themselves linked to social norms, were sufficient to produce this result — unless counteracted by singlehood.

Note that the figures for men and women are not exactly identical, since a person can form a first union with someone who has already had a partner. Couples where the man is more educated female hypergamy or male hypogamy were a minority, even among prewar cohorts Guichard-Claudic et al. Two phases of change across cohorts can be identified.

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In a first phase, corresponding to the cohorts born in the s and s, the proportion of endogamous couples declines in favour of both types of exogamous couples hypergamous and hypogamous. This phase does not correspond to a clear change in gendered differences, although female hypergamy increases slightly faster than the reverse situation. In the cohorts born in the late s, cases of female hypogamy out those of hypergamy.

And this will likely apply to the most recent cohorts likewise. The timing of these changes in hypergamy coincides perfectly with the many transformations that affected the family over the same period. This image applies perfectly here.


This technique allows us to measure the effects on union formation of social norms, individual preferences and opportunities for meeting potential partners, beyond the simple availability constraint of partners with a given educational level.

It includes parameters controlling for marginal distributions by educational level of individuals of the sex considered and of their first partners for each birth cohort, and parameters measuring the over- or under-representation of hypergamous and hypogamous couples with respect to endogamous ones. These coefficients shown on Figure 2 thus identify the over- or under-representation of these situations with respect to the endogamous configurations in the cohort : they correspond to the propensity or otherwise to hypergamy and hypogamy, with respect to endogamy.

The overall model is based onobservations and has a deviance offor 1, degrees of freedom. The same phases can be distinguished, with a trend reversal in female hypergamy around the cohort ; from the cohort, the situations where the woman is more educated are as numerous as those where the man is more educated. These show that the choice of partner follows and overtakes changes in the educational distribution of the population. In the cohorts born in the s, couples in which the woman is less educated than her partner are less frequent than those in the reverse situation, by comparison with what would be expected if partners chose each other at random.

Esteve, J. Permanyer who found that absolute and relative hypergamy always point in the same direction. It appears that social norms, proxied here by the choices made by individuals beyond the constraints of partner availability, are merely the reflection of the most frequent couple configurations in a given cohort, observed in Figure 1.

It is surprising to observe the relative ease with which gender norms seem to have given way, and even changed direction : it would appear that male dominance is based above all on structural factors, with normative constructions being superimposed upon a de facto situation. In fact, this is only partially the case. Changes over time can therefore only be analysed with a very long time lag.

This difficulty can be limited by measuring the proportion of persons ever in a union at a given age, but changes in the age at first union formation cannot be taken into : a delay in union formation increases the proportion of singles observed at a given age, although this increase may be offset by a greater propensity to form unions at older ages.

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As first union formation slows down considerably beyond age 35, a reliable estimate of the proportion of permanent singles can be obtained for the cohorts born in the s, and trends for the more recent cohorts can also be outlined. Within each educational group, these parameters are allowed to vary across cohorts by means of restricted cubic splines with three degrees of freedom Keele, which provide a flexible way to study changes over time. We know that age at union formation has not evolved in a linear manner, but has followed a U-shaped curve ; as found here, the baby-boom cohorts had the lowest median age at first union formation in the twentieth century Prioux, The extrapolated proportion of permanent singles in the most recent cohorts obtained here is based first, on the behaviour of these cohorts observed up to the survey date, and second, on its extension using the splines of observed distributions for the older cohorts.

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