Once Homogamous, Always Homogamous? Meeting in School, Educational Homogamy and Partners’ Careers over the Life Course in France

Milan Bouchet-Valat, French National Institute for Demographic Studies (Ined)
Sébastien Grobon, French National Institute for Statistics (Insee)

Following the theory of educational systems as marriage markets (Blossfeld & Timm, 2003), it is often claimed that educational expansion favors an increase in educational homogamy, which in turn fosters increased occupational similarity in a context of growing female labor force participation, and eventually contributes to rising income inequalities between households. We put to the test this sequence of hypotheses using unique data from a recent French survey on individual and conjugal trajectories (EPIC).

First, even if the prolongation of studies has increased the proportion of first relationships in which partners met in school, this change is much more limited among current relationships at the time of the survey due to separations and repartnerings. Second, relationships initiated in school are more educationally homogamous than others, as expected by the theory. Third, couples in which partners have the same educational level have more similar occupations both at the beginning of the relationship and at the time of the survey. But the effect is quite weak, implying that an increase in educational homogamy has very limited consequences on socioeconomic homogamy, and therefore on income inequalities between couples. We show that gendered differences in the partners’ occupational careers are essential to take into account to understand this result.

Overall, while effects go in the direction expected by the theory at each step, only the second step (meeting in school increases educational homogamy) corresponds to a strong effect. The combination of all three steps implies a very limited effect of longer studies on socioeconomic homogamy over the life course. Our results confirm recent works on the relationship between educational homogamy and income inequalities, and indicate that other demographic determinants of increases in inequalities need to be investigated.

Presented in Poster Session 3