It’s a question that’s been puzzling social scientists for years. Some reason that it is mostly due to monetary reasons: a partner with similar education should have similar salary levels. Others think it could have more to do with lifestyle factors – similar education levels may lead to similar interests in books, music, and hobbies. Or it could just be that people with similar education levels tend to interact more with each other, at school and at work.
Movie star marriages can shine light on this topic, according to Gustaf Bruze, the study’s author and an economist at the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences in Denmark.
Bruze assembled a large data set of top movie stars’ marriages, earnings, and education levels, and found that level of formal education has no correlation with a movie star’s success, either in terms of box office earnings or the likelihood of winning an Oscar. Yet despite the disconnect between education and success, Bruze’s analysis shows that movie stars who marry each other still tend to have similar educational backgrounds. His data also shows that actors are unlikely to meet their spouses in school, or be cast together in movies due to their education level.
The findings suggest that sorting on education isn’t all about the money or solely an artifact of professional affiliations. According to Bruze:
What it says is that men and women have very strong preferences for non-financial partner traits correlated with education. And educational sorting would remain even if the tendency of men and women to work with colleagues of a similar educational background were to disappear or if the role of educational institutions as a meeting place for future husbands and wives were to disappear.