Changes in homogamy in education and parental social class among Finnish cohorts born in 1957–73

Elina Mäenpää, University of Helsinki
Marika Jalovaara, University of Turku

Socioeconomic homogamy – choosing a partner from the same socioeconomic stratum – is regarded as an indicator of status-group closure, whereas heterogamy indicates that members of different status groups accept each other as social equals. Therefore, changes in socioeconomic homogamy tendencies over time are indicative of the intensity and direction of social change in a society. Sociological theories posit that boundaries based on socioeconomic origins have become more permeable in the course of modernization, whereas in the case of achieved socioeconomic position they have strengthened. Using Finnish register data we analyse changes in homogamy with respect to educational level (achieved status) and parental social class (ascribed status) in cohorts born in 1957–73 and 1963–73, respectively. The data includes information on the formation and dissolution of marriages and non-marital cohabitations, which is important in the Nordic context given that cohabitation is prevalent. We examine the unions of 30-year-old women in each birth cohort. Log-linear modelling indicates an increase in educational homogamy from the oldest to the youngest cohort, and a respective decrease in homogamy with respect to parental social class, although the changes are very modest. These general trends conceal differences between the status groups, however. Homogamy has declined among the more highly educated, whereas it has slightly increased among those with a low level of education. The small general decrease in the case of parental social class is largely attributable to a weakening tendency among people from farming and upper-white-collar families to choose a partner with similar origins. The decline among the higher strata indicates more social openness in Finnish society, but at the same time the increase in homogamy among those with few educational resources may be a sign of increasing marginalization of this group. The data will soon be updated to cover birth cohorts 1974–79.

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Presented in Session 26: Assortative mating and religiousness