Thursday, May 8, 2008


Science Daily has a bit about a University of Iowa study that shows that "Whether a young man's mother earned a college degree and whether she worked outside the home while he was growing up seems to have an effect years later when he considers his ideal wife, according to a study by University of Iowa sociologist Christine Whelan."

High-achieving men -- those who earn salaries in the top 10 percent for their age and/or have a graduate degree -- are highly likely to marry a woman whose education level mirrors their mom's.

Nearly 80 percent of the high-achieving men whose mothers had college degrees married women with college degrees, and 19 percent of them married women with graduate degrees. Of men whose moms had graduate degrees, 62 percent tied the knot with graduate degree holders, and 27 percent said "I do" to women with college degrees.

Sixty-eight percent of high-achieving men agreed with the statement, "Smart women make better mothers."

"Successful men in their 20s and 30s today are the sons of a pioneering generation of high-achieving career women. Their mothers serve as role models for how a woman can be nurturing and successful at the same time," said Whelan, a visiting assistant professor of sociology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "One man I interviewed put it like this: 'If your mother is a success, you don't have any ideas of success and family that exclude a woman from working.' This Mother's Day, I think we should thank those moms for leading the way toward gender equality for a younger generation."

....Sixty-two percent of high-achieving single men disagreed with the statement "Women who are stay-at-home parents are better mothers than women who work outside the home." Almost three-quarters of the high-achieving men disagreed with the statement, "It is usually better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family."

One of the nicest parts of me stumbling across this article today is that it's sort diametrically opposite some of the stuff rumbling around in my head that was a result of the piece in NPR about early motherhood's biological superiority and the trend towards more stay at home moms.

It makes sense that if we had happy childhoods, we'd look to replicate those. I am reassured that smart men want smart women, even though I don't think this study really says that.

I'm also curious about methodology. It sounds very upper middle class to me. And I guess I'm using upper middle class to also serve as a code for white.

I say this because I remember reading an article a couple years ago about the difficulty African American women may begin to have in finding mates because of increased college attendance rates among African American women, but flatlining and decreasing rates among African American men. There were a set of assumptions in that article that grated, but it was thought provoking enough to share with my students.

How do these two stories connect? And with the NPR piece?

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