Status Hypergamy in Sweden: What Role Does Health Play?

Kieron Barclay , Stockholm University

Researchers have extensively studied partner status heterogamy, examining patterns of pairing based on educational attainment and income. Historically, men held an advantage in both education and income over their female counterparts. However, despite the rise in female educational achievement, women continue to prefer men with equivalent or higher educational attainment. Previous research has also identified good health as an important trait in partners, being consequential for partnering and fertility outcomes, but little work has examined how this interacts with educational and income differences between partners. This study uses Swedish population register data, based on over 400,000 childbearing couples, to examine the potential compensatory roles of physical health in partnership decisions. I examine the predicted probabilities of relationships being hypogamous, homogamous, or hypergamous in relation to four measures of health: physical fitness, height, BMI, and cognitive ability. Contrary to expectations of trade-offs, the findings suggest that women who bear children with partners with lower educational attainment (hypogamous unions) are also partnering with men with relatively worse health indicators, such as lower physical fitness, cognitive abilities, and height, and less favourable BMI scores. On the other hand, women in hypergamous unions, where the male partner has higher educational attainment than the woman, are generally partnering with men who have better physical fitness, and higher cognitive scores. Further analyses based on male-female income differences generally support these conclusions. These results indicate that better male health does not compensate for lower education, but that lower socioeconomic status and worse health tend to cluster together.

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 Presented in Session 120. Flash session Gender Differences in Health, Wellbeing and Morbidity