fordCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for Women’s Voices in many articles over the years.


In the golden age of America, supposedly opportunity was open to all and anyone could move up the social ladder. Whether or not this was fact or fiction, there are some ways in which chances to rise from one social class to another were better than there are now. The dominance of the “1%,” the shrinking fortunes of the middle class, and the growing body of research demonstrating that class mobility is more difficult now than it used to be, all underline this trend.

One of the most reliable ways to jump social classes was through marriage. Women, particularly in the 50s, were known to go to college to get the infamous “Mrs. Degree,”—meet a man and marry. Some even went to law school or even medical school and never practiced. As The New York Times writes, “From Cinderella to Kate Middleton, fictional and real-life fairy tales have told of women marrying up.” I remember hearing the Middletons being called “social climbers” and thinking, “well, if they are, they are really good at it!” The Times reports that moving up is now been replaced by the rising trend of “assortative mating.”

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. It was common in the early 20th century, dipped in the middle of the century and has sharply risen in recent years — a pattern that roughly mirrors income inequality in the United States, according to research by Robert Mare, a sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. People are now more likely to marry people with similar educational attainment — even after controlling for differences between men and women, like the fact that women were once less likely to attend college.

RELATED: What We Don’t Tell the Bride About Marriage

Today, people tend to marry for different reasons than they did in the past. Rather than seek someone with complementary skills, a man and woman are looking for a “like-minded” person, meaning, often, someone with a similar characteristics. The Times uses the example of Don Draper (from the TV show “Madmen”) marrying his secretary in the early 60s. Draper is also a good example because his first wife was from a much higher social background than his—a Bryn Mawr graduate with a Main Line pedigree. But Draper was able to wed her because he had the universal calling card—money. Read More »

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