9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Partnerships Building II, Auditório B1.04

Sex inversion in heterogamy or when the wife is the more highly qualified spouse

Sex inversion in heterogamy or when the wife is the more highly qualified spouse

Previous founding studies (Girard, 1964) (Bozon, Heran, 1987, 1988) (Singly, 1984) have shown that heterosexual couples are structured according a double logic, that of social homogamy and sexual heterogamy thereby ensuring the reproduction of social order and gendered order. This paper aims at reexamining the issue of couples´configuration, focusing on cases of woman´s hypogamy (where the woman is more qualified than her partner). How do these situations of atypical heterogamy affect the reproductions of social and gendered order within the family? This study is based on the findings of the « Families and employers » INED study caried out in 2004 on 2719 couples ages 25-49 and follow up interviews on a sample of couples in which the woman is significantly more highly qualified than the man.
The findings do not show major changes but changes in emphasis. First, heterogamy, and femal hypogamy, will be measured. Heterogamy is slightly on the increase, but women are more often hypergamous than hypogamous, even if the latter shows a slight increase. Moreover, the sex inversion of heterogamy (female if the diploma is taken as criterion or male if the social category is) proves how difficult it may be for women to find a job which really corresponds to their diploma and qualifications. The interviews focused on situations of woman´s hypogamy and confirm that the sexual division of work (domestic work especially) is only slightly affected, even in a configuration that may have been deemed much more favorable for women. We nevertheless noticed some specific features (which distinguish hypogamous women more from other women than from men): overqualified women (compared to their partner) tend to be more stable in their jobs and more involved in their work. The interviews revealed a greater autonomy of these women as regards their work, but their career does not necessarily have priority within the couple. These findings are congruent withe research carried out in other countries (Tichenor, 2005) (Bittman and alii, 2003) (Mac Rae, 1986).