Students marry for richer, not poorer


    By Daniel Singer

    The old Beatles” tune, “Can”t buy me love”, might be wrong.

    A study by a BYU undergraduate student discovered that male students in majors that pay more after graduation are more likely to be married than students that were in majors that yield less money.

    The study looked at 22 fields of study varying from the highest pay-yielding major, chemical engineering, to the lowest, music.

    “Saying that earning potential may be the primary prerequisite in finding a spouse would be overstating it,” said Will Barlow, a senior from Orem, majoring in psychology. “But the fact that it is recognized by male and female students shows that it is an important part of the mating ritual.”

    The overall percentage of married male undergraduates at BYU is 31.5 percent. Yet in majors such as chemical engineering, where the average graduate can expect to make $53,000 a year, more than 40 percent of the males are married.

    Fifty percent of males majoring in mechanical engineering, which typically will earn more than $47,000 a year, are married.

    The study contrasted these figures to males in majors such as music, who can expect to earn only $32,000 a year, where only 22 percent are married.

    Barlow attributed the vast difference in the percentage of married males to principles of evolutionary psychology, a branch of psychology that looks at the mind as a mechanism shaped by natural selection.

    Aaron Sell, a graduate assistant at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, was not surprised by the results of Barlow”s study.

    “When females are making mate choices, they typically look for the strongest, healthiest mate,” Sell said. “Financially, it is true that women look for a mate who is more ambitious.”

    Sell cited a study by David Buss, a principal authority in evolutionary psychology, which studied 37 cultures throughout the world. Buss found that women preferred ambitious men, even in cashless societies.

    “It is a common fact that men make more than women, but women spend more than men,” Sell said. “So, men must be giving women money to spend. This can be an attraction to women.”

    Barlow concluded in his study that, at times, men seek out majors that yield more money in order to be more attractive to women. He also asserted that women, at times, seek out men that will earn more money because of evolutionary factors.

    Another student interpreted Barlow”s data in a different way.

    Elisabeth Westwood, president of Voice, the gender equality club at BYU, felt the different ratios of married men was a result of cultural pressures rather than evolutionary design.

    “In a culture where men are expected to provide financially for the family, it makes sense that men who are in majors where they will make more money would be ready to start families,” Westwood said. “Men who are in majors where their financial future is uncertain might want to wait longer before taking on that commitment.”

    Westwood also cited a study that showed that women were more likely to choose a course of study that they enjoy, while men traditionally chose majors that would enable them to best provide for their family.

    Other students saw truth in both analyses of the study.

    “It [the potential income of my husband] was not a criteria for me, but I do think women think about it,” said Robin Adlong, a junior from Orange County, Calif., who has been married for five months. “I did want the man I married to be a hard worker though, I didn”t want to marry someone who was lazy.”

    One student saw evidence of Barlow”s interpretation of the data first hand.

    “I switched majors because I wanted to provide better for my future family,” said Andrew Rich, a senior majoring in facilities management from Littleton, Colo. “I switched from Psychology [which yields less money than facilities management] and my dating life has never been better.”

    Heidi Lutz, a sophomore from Brea, Calif., majoring in English, said earning potential was not the only thing she looked for in a potential spouse.

    “His major does play into [things, when I am dating],” Lutz said. “But, it”s more important to me that the man is interested in what he”s doing. He will be happier down the road.”

    Another student agreed completely with Barlow”s interpretation of the data.

    “If there are four equally good options in men, and ones going to be a seminary teacher and the other is pre-med, I”m gonna choose the pre-med student,” said Beth Stiles, a sophomore from Point Marion, Penn., majoring in English. “Especially at BYU, pretty much everybody is a good guy, so why not pick the one [that will make the most money].”

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