Articles

Once Homogamous, Always Homogamous? Educational Level and Career Similarity of Couples in France Who Meet at School

Milan Bouchet-Valat  By the same author

      Sébastien Grobon  By the same author

Resume

Drawing on data from the EPIC study of individual and conjugal trajectories (Étude des parcours individuels et conjugaux, INED–INSEE, 2013–2014, France), this article analyses the context in which couples met, the level of education they reached, and their subsequent careers. It calls into question the claim that longer education bolsters partners’ educational and socioeconomic similarity and exacerbates intercouple inequality in the population at large. The proportion of couples who meet in an educational context has risen across birth cohorts. However, for relationships that were in progress at the time of the survey, separations and repartnering greatly attenuate the impact of this increase. As expected, partners who met at school show very similar educational levels. But while educational homogamy works in favour of occupational status homogamy at both the time the relationship started as well as at the time of the survey, that tie is quite weak. Having met at school only slightly affects the difference between partners’ occupational positions. Gender inequalities (hypergamy) ultimately appear stronger than homogamy: it is in couples where the woman’s level of education is higher than the man’s that the occupational gap in the man’s favour is smallest.