PUBLISHED: 05:50 EST, 8 April 2012 | UPDATED: 06:39 EST, 8 April 2012
Kate Middleton did it, Lizzie Bennet did it – even Madonna did it when she wed Guy Ritchie, whose ancestors include baronets.
But now it seems the age of the rags to riches fairytale is coming to an end, as a study shows today’s brides are more likely to ‘marry down’ than to choose a husband with more wealth and social standing than they have.
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, analysing how women’s aspirations have changed, showed a marked shift in marriage patterns over the past 40 years – driven in part by women’s advances in the workplace.
Official figures released last week revealed that 52 per cent of women aged 17-30 went into higher education, compared with 42 per cent of men – and their higher qualifications are gradually making a difference to their pay packets.
As a consequence, an increasing number of women have the economic means to marry someone who earns less than they do.
The current marital landscape is radically different from that which prevailed after the Second World War, when women tended to marry men who were both older and from a higher social class.
The IPPR studied women born in 1958, 1970 and between 1976 and 1981, and found both a drop in the number ‘marrying up’, and a small increase in those ‘marrying down’. The largest increase was seen in the number of marrying within their own social class.
While it signals improvements to women’s educational and economic opportunities, the report also suggests the class system has tightened its grip on the UK, leading to rising inequality.
Higher wage-earners and the well-educated are more likely than ever to marry people similar to themselves, and pass their privileged lifestyles on to their children.
The researchers found that 38 per cent of brides born in 1958 chose a husband from a higher social class than them, but for the group born in 1970 this had dropped to 32 per cent, with the chance of marrying someone of their own class up to 45 per cent.
For today’s generation of brides, the daughters of the 1958 demographic, the dream of snaring a wealthy spouse has clearly lost its glitter.
The majority, 56 per cent, marry someone from their own social class, and 28 per cent marry men from a lower social echelon.
Just 16 per cent of these brides are ‘marrying up’ by wedding men from higher social backgrounds.
One woman who embodies the spirit of the ’81 girls is Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Phillips, who could be said to have ‘married down’ when she chose a husband without an aristocratic pedigree – England rugby player Mike Tindall.
The research shows that as well as ‘marrying down’ more often, women of the current generation are increasingly likely to pick partners who are three or more years older than them.
The largest rise is in the ‘seven years older’ bracket, which now includes a fifth of married women.
IPPR director Nick Pearce explained: ‘Age no longer seems to be a social taboo, with many more people marrying partners who are more than one or two years older than themselves than in the 1970s and 1980s.’
However, he expressed concerns that the trend for marrying within one’s own social class would exacerbate income inequality, saying:
‘While governments have no business telling people who to marry, and have plenty of bigger economic inequalities to aim at, it is important for policymakers to understand these trends if they are to have a full understanding of what’s driving the stagnation in social mobility.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2126787/Why-more-women-marrying-down.html#ixzz1rTQVLGcs