Is hypergamy still prevalent in modern societies?

Women 'marrying up' are often considered gold diggers

In Summary

• It is done not out of greed but as a defence mechanism in the event of children  


I bet you have not really thought about it, but every movie we have ever seen, the pretty girl ends up falling for the man who is far richer and with a higher social standing. Whether it is a prince or some financial magnet, movies have conditioned us to believe that the man is mostly better off financially. This is known as hypergamy.

The dictionary definition of hypergamy is the action of marrying or forming a sexual relationship with a person of a superior sociological or educational background. Merriam Webster defines it as marriage into an equal or higher caste or social group. However, in modern-day culture, it can also refer to ‘dating up’.

Over the last century, the word hypergamy has been replaced by the more colloquial ‘gold-digger’. Women who chose to marry up were considered materialistic as they sought to achieve economic security and gain social standing.

A modern example of what would be considered a hypergamous relationship is the marriage between American actress Meghan Markle to British Prince Harry. A lot of the problems the couple face arise from the people's opinion (including the royal family) that Harry married way beneath his status. It would have been more acceptable for Harry to marry a British commoner with ties to noble families.

However, as the gender inequality gap is becoming increasingly narrower, women find themselves in an almost equal footing as their counterparts. As it stands, more women are graduating from universities with higher degrees than men. Even though they are more educated, women will seek men who are more successful financially.

This discussion took over content creators on TikTok as a popular TikTok star broke off her relationship with her boyfriend, who was financially dependent on her. She later started dating a millionaire and was accused by followers of hypergamy. If a woman is financially independent but knowingly chooses to marry up, will it still be considered hypergamy?

While hypergamy is not as prevalent in modern society, it is still alive in certain close-knit communities. Hypergamy is mostly practised among noble families or castes in some communities. I know of a handful of noble families within the Coast region who only allow their daughters to marry with these noble families. This is done as an assurance to maintaining or elevating the economic and social standing of the girl. Meanwhile, men are allowed to marry women from equal or lesser backgrounds as long as the women meet certain criteria.

Women are inclined to marry up as a security measure as they are more likely to suffer from the great economic disparity that exists between the sexes. They are consciously looking for providers not because of greed but as a defence mechanism against the great socioeconomic hit they get when they get pregnant and take time out to raise children.  

As my husband and I recently started a family, I decided to take at least a year to focus on raising the little one. My husband, instead, has been driven by the responsibility of providing and has taken on more work. Although we are both postgraduate educated individuals from middle-class backgrounds, does this mean we are in a hypergamous marriage because of the security the man is currently providing? 

Millennials are among the first generations to forgo cultural expectations when it comes to marriage. Marrying up has never been a consideration to us as we prefer to marry equals with a strong foundation on love and an emphasis on partnership.

For most of the younger generations to view a relationship as a hypergamy would not only be an outdated view but also a simplified perspective. Younger generations have a much more complex outlook on relationships. A person's background or wealth is simply not enough to determine the dynamics of that relationship.