Assortative mating is the idea that people marry people like themselves, with similar education and earnings potential and the values and lifestyle that come with them. The nature of marriage itself is changing. It used to be about the division of labor: Men sought homemakers, and women sought breadwinners. But as women’s roles changed, marriage became more about companionship.
“Husbands and wives had different roles in different spheres, so that was the opposites-attract view of marriage,” Mr. Wolfers said. “Today you want people with shared passions, similar interests to you, similar career goals, similar goals for the kids.”
With more marriages of equals, reflecting deep changes in American families and society at large, the country is becoming more segregated by class.
Even though the typical husband still makes more than his wife, the marital pay gap among opposite-sex couples has shrunk significantly in the decades since women started entering the work force en masse. Today, wives over all make 78 percent of what their husbands make, according to an Upshot analysis of annual survey data from the Census Bureau. That’s up from 52 percent in 1970.
It reflects the stickiness of gender roles at work and at home: Marriage significantly depresses women’s earnings, and the arrival of children has an even stronger effect. Men, meanwhile, tend to earn more after having children, and studies show that’s because employers see mothers as less committed to work and fathers as doubly committed to breadwinning.