but who do they marry?

A recent report out of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently highlighted variation in income and unemployment by college major. I’m not a fan of this sort of thing, but it did alert me to the fact that the Census’s American Community Survey includes data on college majors. Over at IPUMS, not only can you get the data in an easy to use form, but you can also link respondents to other people in the household with the click of a button. Obviously, I was interested in figuring out how often undergraduate sociology majors marry each other.

I grabbed the last six years of the ACS to get a decent sample of people who were sociology majors. I first figured out the overall distribution of majors by sex so I could get a sense of baseline expectations. IPUMS will give you all the data on oppose-sex spouses, so I narrowed down the sample to people who graduated as sociology majors who were married to someone who also had a college degree. I estimated the % of spouses of sociology majors who had each major bu sex. I also divided this % by how common the major was to get a sense of how unexpected each pairing was. For example about 6% of married male sociology majors are married to someone who was a nursing major, but that roughly matches the % of women who were nursing majors, so it’s not that interesting. On the other hand, while 1.2% of female college graduates were finance majors, only 0.6% of male sociologists are married to one.

Note: the sample is restricted to folks who are married to folks of a different sex who both have a college degree. (I’m not sure what happens to same-sex couples in the ACS, but I didn’t see any in this sample.) So on the table, when it says 8% of male sociology majors are married to a female sociology major, what it really means is among the population of male sociologist who are married to a female with a college degree, 8% are married to someone who was a sociology major. This completely excludes the not currently married (40% of sociology majors of 25), and those folks married to someone without a college degrees (33% of married sociology majors). Finally, the numbers below don’t add up to 100% because I’ve excluded very small majors. Lots of ways to slice it, but, for this blog post, I’m only interested in dual-degree households. As noted above, the IPUMS data is really easy to use, so go wild.

For married male sociology majors:

Wife’s Major % Ratio
Sociology 8.0 3.7
Elementary Education 8.0 1.1
Psychology 7.4 1.3
General Education 6.4 1.1
Nursing 6.3 1.0
English Language and Literature 4.8 1.2
Business Management and Administration 3.7 0.7
General Business 2.5 0.8
Biology 2.5 0.8
Communications 2.3 1.0
Accounting 2.2 0.6
Family and Consumer Sciences 2.1 1.3
Social Work 2.1 1.4
Political Science and Government 2.0 1.2
History 1.9 1.2
Marketing and Marketing Research 1.7 0.8
Common Foreign Language Studies 1.4 1.3
Special Needs Education 1.4 1.5
Fine Arts 1.3 0.9
Art and Music Education 1.2 1.4
Liberal Arts 1.2 0.7
Treatment Therapy Professions 1.1 1.1
Economics 1.0 0.8
Mathematics 1.0 0.9
Criminal Justice and Fire Protection 1.0 0.9
Physical Fitness, Parks, Recreation, and Leisure 0.9 1.3
Anthropology and Archeology 0.9 1.8
Language and Drama Education 0.9 0.9
Commercial Art and Graphic Design 0.8 0.7
Secondary Teacher Education 0.8 1.0
Journalism 0.8 0.8
Physical and Health Education Teaching 0.8 1.1
Miscellaneous Education 0.8 1.1
Communication Disorders Sciences and Services 0.7 0.9
Area, Ethnic, and Civilization Studies 0.7 1.8
Early Childhood Education 0.6 0.9
Finance 0.6 0.5
Chemistry 0.6 0.6
Philosophy and Religious Studies 0.5 1.1
Art History and Criticism 0.5 1.4
Human Resources and Personnel Management 0.5 1.1
Music 0.5 0.6
Computer Science 0.4 0.5
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Administration 0.3 0.7
Multi-disciplinary or General Science 0.3 0.5
Medical Technologies Technicians 0.3 0.6

For married female sociology majors:

Husband’s Major % Ratio
Business Management and Administration 5.9 0.8
General Business 5.2 0.9
History 4.9 1.7
Political Science and Government 4.9 1.6
Psychology 4.6 1.6
Sociology 4.4 3.7
Economics 4.4 1.5
Accounting 3.7 0.9
Biology 3.6 1.1
English Language and Literature 3.2 1.4
Electrical Engineering 2.8 0.8
Finance 2.2 0.9
Mechanical Engineering 2.2 0.8
Mathematics 2.0 1.2
Chemistry 1.9 1.1
Criminal Justice and Fire Protection 1.9 1.0
Communications 1.8 1.1
Computer Science 1.8 0.7
Philosophy and Religious Studies 1.6 1.5
Marketing and Marketing Research 1.6 0.7
General Engineering 1.4 0.7
General Education 1.4 0.7
Civil Engineering 1.3 0.8
Architecture 1.2 1.1
Physical and Health Education Teaching 1.0 1.2
Physics 1.0 1.0
Liberal Arts 1.0 0.8
Physical Fitness, Parks, Recreation, and Leisure 0.8 1.0
Elementary Education 0.7 0.8
Chemical Engineering 0.7 0.8
Geology and Earth Science 0.7 1.4
Journalism 0.7 0.9
Fine Arts 0.7 0.7
Secondary Teacher Education 0.7 0.9
Theology and Religious Vocations 0.6 0.6
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering 0.6 1.0
Common Foreign Language Studies 0.6 1.5
Geography 0.6 1.5
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 0.5 1.7
Miscellaneous Education 0.5 0.9
Music 0.5 0.7
Multi-disciplinary or General Science 0.4 0.5
Commercial Art and Graphic Design 0.4 0.6
Computer and Information Systems 0.4 0.5
Computer Engineering 0.3 0.5
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Administration 0.3 0.6

Both male and female sociology majors are 3.7 times more likely to be married to other sociology majors compared to a random major. Probably the result of homophily, strong ties, or group assignments. For comparative purposes, the intramajor marriage ratios for other fields we often hang out with: political science: 4.1 times, history: 3.4, English: 3.3, psychology: 2.3. At the extreme, female theology majors who marry college educated men are 37 times more likely to marry a theology major than you would expect and 43% of male nurses married to women are married to nursing majors.

4 thoughts on “but who do they marry?”

  1. That’s great. That’s some major homophily. I wonder if sociology majors are more/less likely to marry college graduates in the first place. Also, always interested to see the relationship between sociology and economics. Also, it really does not look like those male sociologists are marrying up the hard/soft-science hierarchy. (Re: title: I’ve noticed that the decline of “whom” is very apparent in marriage research.)


  2. Did you use the 3- year ACS file? Or just combine the individual data years? You should use the multi-year file so the variables are weighted properly and any changes to code lists are crosswalked for you.


  3. Wow, this is really interesting. I wonder about:

    * Does the size of the major make a difference? Perhaps if the major is relatively small, but not too small, group identity is enhanced, but I’m not sure that would lead more couple formation or less.

    * Gender ratio within the field. I wonder if the dramatic gender skew in nursing partially accounts for the high percentage of male nurses married to female nurses.

    * I also wonder whether gender skew in a major is related to relative earnings of the major-matching couples. If the major functions as a marriage market for some, and those whose gender is in the majority are relatively disadvantaged in how selective they can be, and part of ‘appeal as marriage partner’ is related to things that predict future earnings, then, e.g. female psych majors who married male psych majors (at least rather recently) might tend to have husbands who earn less relative to we would otherwise expect. And so on. Maybe this is too convulated; just speculating.

    Perhaps relative ‘appeal as a marital partner’ does vary by gender skew in the major among those who married within their major, but in ways unobservable in ACS.


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