Discussion paper

DP17914 Hypergamy Revisited: Marriage in England, 1837-2021

It is widely believed that women value social status in marital partners more than men, leading to female marital hypergamy, and more female intergenerational social mobility. A recent paper on Norway, for example, reports significant female hypergamy, even today, as measured by parental status of men and women in partnerships. Using evidence from more than 33 million marriages and 67 million births in England and Wales 1837-2022 we show that there was never within this era any period of significant hypergamous marriage by women. The average status of women’s fathers was always close to that of their husbands’ fathers. Consistent with this there was no differential tendency in England of men and women to marry by social status. The evidence is of strong symmetry in marital behaviors between men and women throughout. There is also ancillary evidence that physical attraction cannot have been a very significant factor in marriages in any period 1837-2021, based on the correlation observed in underlying social abilities.


Clark, G and N Cummins (2023), ‘DP17914 Hypergamy Revisited: Marriage in England, 1837-2021‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17914. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17914