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Hypergamy as a concept isn’t particularly new. Ideas around marrying up have existed since the first man decided that his daughter was worth trading for a bag of rice and a small goat. The term, which has largely been applied to heteronormative relationships, first appeared in a 19th-century report on a census in India and is generally defined to mean when a man marries a woman of lower social status, or the woman marries “up,” which elevates her position in society.
Today, the term on TikTok has 126 million views while complementary phrases like “high-value woman” (106 million) and “feminine energy” (286 million) are also in regular use.
In times of economic uncertainty, especially, it would be far more convenient to have someone else footing your bills, although I imagine most single adults living alone would be content to have someone to at least share those bills with.
But for some, it’s not enough to just be coupled up. This ideology typically pushes for women to strategically position themselves in a way that courts the interest of wealthier men, with the goal of elevating their lifestyles and securing upwardly mobile futures through marriage.
As one of my aunts routinely advises me at family functions after grilling me on when I intend to “settle down,” it’s not explicitly about marrying for money. But she’s a firm believer that you’re better off going to places where wealthy people are and finding love in those spaces.
“It is unlikely to be a terribly successful strategy,” said Elizabeth Armstrong, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan who was pretty straight to the point in dismantling this idea.
The growing gap in educational attainment — women are enrolling in and graduating college at a higher rate than men — means that for women in the US, the concept of “marrying up” is not actually that prevalent at all, according to Armstrong.
“Demographics are just demographics in the sense that if women are getting more educational credentials than men and are outperforming — and even outearning, in some cases — you can’t just conjure men into existence that don’t exist,” she told BuzzFeed News. “The issue is more about how low to go, and whether to intertwine lives with men who may harm one financially or in other ways.”
That cost to educated women was put at a loss of $25,000 a year, with Black women more likely to feel this squeeze. So it isn’t surprising that hypergamy content has proved lucrative and found a particular audience among women of color.
The research and the reality show that rich people tend to marry, well, other rich people. Though the data indicates that attempts to strategize your way into a hypergamous relationship are more than likely futile, that hasn’t hindered the popularity of this content and the rise of figures building online brands as thought leaders and coaches on the topic.
Kalin isn’t clueless about the changing demographics, but she believes it further emphasizes the need for her service, which she hopes to soon expand into matchmaking.
She predicts the next wave of dating discourse for highly educated and financially independent women will be distinguishing between hypergamous dating and high-value dating, which shifts the focus from the measurable economic gains of a relationship to other qualitative virtues like emotional intelligence and generosity.