Marina Adshade

Economist, Writer, and Speaker | Women, sex, love, and work

The Secret to a Happy Sex Life? Not a Better Educated Wife

Looking for a satisfying sex life? According to new research in the Journal of Sex Research, your best bet is to marry someone who is as well-educated, and employed, as yourself. That’s bad news for women (and men) in an era in which equally well-educated partners are hard to find.

If you are under the age of 45, and living in North America, you belong to a generation in which women have graduated from university at much higher rates than men. That growing gender imbalance in education (currently, for every 100 men in college there are 135 women) has created a shortage of equally educated marriage partners – for both men and women.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2007 28% of women were married to men with less education than themselves compared to 18% of men married to women with less education – a reversal of what we observed 30 years earlier.

This new paper looks at martial and sexual satisfaction using data collected in face-to-face interviews with 1,083 Hong Kong couples in their first marriage, with the following (statistically significant) results.

– The likelihood a woman is satisfied with her marriage decreases by 40% when she is better educated than her husband, compared to when they are equally well educated.

– The likelihood a man is satisfied with his marriage decreases by 64% when he is unemployed and she is not, compared with when they are both working.

– Women married to older men are twice as likely to report being sexually satisfied, compared to when they are the same age. [I just threw this  result in to make my older male readers happy]

Other results suggest that men are less satisfied with both their marriages and their sex lives when their wives are better educated than themselves; and that their wives are less satisfied with their marriages, but not necessarily with their sex lives.

Earlier this term I was teaching my first year class about opportunity costs – the cost of making a choice measured in terms of the value of the forgone alternative. We talked about the opportunity costs of going to university (i.e. forgone income during the years the student spends in school).

Too bad I hadn’t read this research before that lecture.

If I had, I could have told them that for men one of the opportunity costs of not going to school is the increased likelihood of marrying a woman who is better educated than themselves – part of the opportunity cost is decreased sexual satisfaction later in life.

On the other hand, I would have also had to tell them that for women one of the opportunity costs of going to college is for them decreased marital satisfaction later in life – and I am not sure that is something they really need to hear their first month in university.


Huiping Zhang, Petula S. Y. Ho & Paul S. F. Yip (2012): Does Similarity Breed Marital and Sexual Satisfaction?, Journal of Sex Research, 49:6, 583-593.



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  1. Héctor Muñoz

    It’s because woman are programmed to find men who can provide and protect them and men to find women who are younger and heathlier than them. Being more mature, having better income and better education than his husband a woman may be unattracted to her husband and he may feel uninspired in his marriage even if they love eachother.

    Sometimes we are victims of our nature.

    • Chris

      “- Women married to older men are twice as likely to report being sexually satisfied, compared to when they are the same age. [I just threw this result in to make my older male readers happy]”

      Thank you :-p

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