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Hypergamy (colloquially referred to as marrying up) is the act or practice of seeking a spouse of equal or higher socioeconomic status, or caste status than oneself.[1]

The term is often used more specifically in reference to a widespread tendency amongst human cultures for females to seek or be encouraged to pursue male suitors that are comparatively older, wealthier or otherwise more privileged than themselves.[2] Hypergamic behaviours can be explained in terms of genetic economic necessity, in which societies with high levels of gender inequality are more likely to have women who "marry-up" for the benefit of their children, and more likely to have men who "marry-down" to ensure that their mates have a higher incentive to remain faithful.[3]

The word "hypogamy"[4] typically refers to instances of the opposite occurring: marrying a person of lower social class or status.



In contemporary society, human females continue to exhibit strong mate-selective preferences for spouses who are at least equal to them in terms of attained educational level, job status, social standing, and capital accumulation. In comparison males tend to place higher emphasis on the value of physical attractiveness in a woman alone.[5][6]

In an anthology about money and relationships by many prominent female writers, the authors expressed that the role money plays in determining how women select long-term male partners is often considered a taboo subject.[7]


In any population, low status males face relatively greater difficulties in finding long-term relationships due to hypergamic pressures. A contributing reason is that low status females often still aspire to obtain mates with greater social standing than themselves.[citation needed]

Hypergamy can also create difficulty for women with high social status in finding long-term relationships. Very high status women may have to choose from a relatively small pool of men, that being, men who are still 'above' them in measures of perceived social status. As an individual woman increases in relative social status, there are proportionally less men in a population, in a relative sense, who remain above her status-wise - shrinking the long-term partner pool.

The practice is also observed among gay couples.[8]


One study found no statistical difference in the number of women or men "marrying-up" in a sample of 1109 first-time married couples in the United States.[9]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gilles Saint-Paul (May 2008), Genes, Legitimacy and Hypergamy: Another Look at the Economics of Marriage, CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6828, University of Toulouse I - GREMAQ-IDEI; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), 
  4. ^ not to be confused with the botanical term hypogamous.
  5. ^ Buss, D.M.; Barnes, M. (1986), "Preferences in human mate selection", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50 (3): 559–570, doi:10.1037/0022-3514.50.3.559, 
  6. ^ Bereczkei, T.; Voros, S.; Gal, A.; Bernath, L. (1997), "Resources, attractiveness, family commitment; reproductive decisions in human mate choice", Ethology 103 (8): 681–699, 
  7. ^ Sachs, Andrea (Jan. 07, 2009). "The Truth About Women, Money and Relationships". Time Magazine.,8599,1870066,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. ^ Cruising to Familyland: Gay Hypergamy and Rainbow Kinship
  9. ^ Dalmia & Sicilian (Volume 14, Number 4 / November, 2008). Kids Cause Specialization: Evidence for Becker’s Household Division of Labor Hypothesis. International Advances in Economic Research. doi:10.1007/s11294-008-9171-x. 

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