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Educational expansion and homogamy. An analysis of the consequences of educational upgrading for assortative mating in Switzerland


  • Rolf Becker


  • Ben Jann



We analyze the changing relationship between education and assortative mating over the course of educational expansion in Switzerland between 1970 and 2000. The main question is whether educational expansion has resulted in increased openness of partnership opportunities or whether the educational system became increasingly important for assortative mating. Census data is used to describe this social change employing a cohort design. Over time and across cohorts, the proportion of people who live without a partner has increased, but the educational classes became more similar with respect to partnerlessness. At the same time, overall educational homogamy of partnerships has remained rather stable, although there were different trends for each of the educational levels. Educational expansion has contributed to increasing heterogamy for less educated and untrained persons while homogamy has increased for persons achieving intermediate and higher levels of education. However, after taking opportunity structure into account, the inclination for educational homogamy is actually more pronounced in the lower educational groups than in the higher and, in particular, the intermediate educational groups. In this respect, one can speak of a polarization of assortative mating with social closure at the lower end of the educational scale and relative openness for intermediate educational classes. This polarization, however, declined somewhat in the course of educational expansion.

Suggested Citation

  • Rolf Becker & Ben Jann, 2016. "Educational expansion and homogamy. An analysis of the consequences of educational upgrading for assortative mating in Switzerland," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 25, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:bss:wpaper:25

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Helena Skyt Nielsen & Michael Svarer, 2009. "Educational Homogamy: How Much is Opportunities?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
    2. Rolf Becker, 2009. "The Transmission of Educational Opportunities across three Generations – Prospects and Limits of the SOEP Data," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 129(2), pages 155-167.
    3. Christine Schwartz & Robert Mare, 2005. "Trends in educational assortative marriage from 1940 to 2003," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(4), pages 621-646, November.
    4. Christine Schwartz & Robert Mare, 2012. "The Proximate Determinants of Educational Homogamy: The Effects of First Marriage, Marital Dissolution, Remarriage, and Educational Upgrading," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(2), pages 629-650, May.
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    More about this item


    educational expansion; educational homogamy; census; cohort analysis; social stratification; partnerlessness;

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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