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February 08, 2006

Smart+Smart=?

Over at Judith Warner's Times Select blog, she raises an interesting point. Call it reverse-Dowdism:

The phenomenon of Type S men (economists, mathematicians, rocket scientists) marrying their female equivalents is a relatively recent phenomenon. Men didn’t generally, in the past, seek to marry someone just like them. (“Men don’t want an intellectual sparring partner,” my father, born in 1917, was known to say — to me — as late as 1987.)

Your typical economics professor, your typical neurosurgeon, your typical chess grandmaster, just one generation ago, wasn’t typically married to a colleague or competitor.

This is why I was so suspicious of Dowd's theories. I specifically seek out accomplished, intelligent women to date. When my friends and I compare notes at week's end, more plaudits are given when the girls are impressive than when they're hot. I became extra-infatuated with my first girlfriend when she used a word I didn't know (phylogeny, as I recall), and I still weed folks out by way of a quasi-intellectually elitist checklist, though what's on it remains proprietary information. That's not to make myself sound like too much of a platonic dater, but these things certainly factor into the equation, and they do so, in contrast to Dowd, in a positive direction.

But I'm not sure where this trend actually leads. Intelligence is only somewhat heritable, and even then it mutates in unexpected ways while traveling down genetic pathways. I assume these pairings lead to higher income concentrations, but then again, knowledge workers aren't necessarily highly paid, and it's not clear, at least to me, that these traits and choices remain prevalent throughout the upper echelons of the business world. So I'm not sure of the effects, but it's interesting stuff to think about.

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» From the things-are-getting-better department from Glorfindel of Gondolin
Ezra Klein's got a good post about what he's calling "reverse-Dowdism": intelligent and highly-educated men choosing to date women who are their intellectual equals. Like Ezra, I'm not sure where this trend leads, and I'm not sure of all the... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 8, 2006 9:40:35 PM

Comments

Among the well-educated in liberal enclaves your formula appears to me to be now standard.

But vast areas of the country between the blue edges and the red heartland (with blue/purple urban stockades sprinkled therein) this kind of behavior is really not typical or growing as practice:

I specifically seek out accomplished, intelligent women to date. When my friends and I compare notes at week's end, more plaudits are given when the girls are impressive than when they're hot.

I applaude and agree with your position. Hot, willing and not threatening (to make dominance) is more the rule than the exception, even among the young, in red places. Santa Cruz, LA, or DC (or even Portland) are truly the exception that proves the rule.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Feb 8, 2006 2:00:13 PM

It's just common sense, surely. Intelligent, intellectually curious people are just better company.

As for the heritability of intelligence, it's less the genetics that matter and more the social aspects. Children of avid readers are exponentially more likely to become avid readers than children of people with no books in the house.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 8, 2006 2:12:48 PM

It also leads to more autistic children.

Posted by: Joel W | Feb 8, 2006 2:14:08 PM

I'd agree with Jim, a lot of guys still don't seek out intelligent women. But, it is a growing phenomenon. I'd say that where it leads to in society is with more women not purposely inhibiting themselves out of fear of being lonely, or being encouraged to do so by their families. And, with more people in society pursuing their goals and dreams, I'd say society as a whole is better off.

When I was in high school, in the late nineties, my Mom, who was born in the 50s, intelligent, feminist (to a degree), and strong, and her friends told me several times that the reason I didn't have a boyfriend because I was too smart and outspoken and scared guys off. My choice (according to them) was either not to 'show off' my brains as much, or just accept it would be harder to find a guy. And I was hardly alone among my female friends to have this advice.

It didn't scare me off. I didn't know if she was right, but my feeling was I'd rather be single than be with a guy who was afraid of smart women. But women, even today, pretty strongly feel the pressue to hold themselves back if they want love and happiness. If intelligence starts being an asset, that pressure will be removed.

Posted by: acallidryas | Feb 8, 2006 2:14:20 PM

My first hunch is that it wouldn't lead to much income concentration. The male knowledge workers of yore weren't marrying a low-earning subset of women, all women were low-earning. Income was already concentrated, the difference is that it was generally lower.

And I have a hard time worrying about the dating/mating limitations of the well-to do. I'm busy worrying about my own.

Posted by: ptm | Feb 8, 2006 2:28:02 PM

“Men don’t want an intellectual sparring partner,” my father, born in 1917, was known to say — to me — as late as 1987."

I believe that the women were trained not to "spar". It didn't mean they were incurious, they just needed to hide it.

Lance Mannion http://lancemannion.typepad.com/lance_mannion/
has had a number of great posts about how Red State stupidity is "dumbing down" boys in particular.

The chimp-in-chief even refers to those who are good at math as the "nerd patrol" (which I believe is a reflection of his red-state base more than his fault). But while Kennedy made heroes out of Scientists, the Bush era only makes heroes out of Rich People.

Posted by: fasteddie | Feb 8, 2006 2:45:31 PM

I am not really convinced this is anything new. I think intelligent men have long preferred intelligent women as wives (and vice versa). Consider the Curies.

Posted by: James B. Shearer | Feb 8, 2006 2:54:08 PM

When there were very few female college graduates, most educated men married less educated women. That does not suggest they married unintelligent women. Unless hte human species has seriously changed in the past century, women were, on average, as smart then as they are now, and also as smart on average as men.

Posted by: arthur | Feb 8, 2006 2:57:41 PM

There's an awful lot of patronizing "men/I pick a woman who..." going on round these parts. Um, not to be cruel, and lord knows I like an educated man too, who's to say men are doing the choosing? Perhaps what's changed is that smart, intelligent women have stopped waiting for men to call and started looking more actively for what they want.

(And frankly, I suspect the reverse is also playing itself out - smart women are perfectly happy with a cute, dumb man who can move furniture and fix a lamp. Conversation is nice and all, but necessary? who can say?)

Posted by: weboy | Feb 8, 2006 3:00:39 PM

Every relationship requires choosing on both sides. I do choose women. But it doesn't work out unless they choose me as well.

Posted by: Ezra | Feb 8, 2006 3:05:20 PM

I dunno... a lot of men I see look grateful. :)

Posted by: weboy | Feb 8, 2006 3:06:52 PM

When I was in high school 12 years ago, I dated a guy who got upset whenever I scored better on a test than he did. The day we got our SAT scores, he said his score wasn't so good, and when I was reluctant to share mine, he demanded that I tell him, and when I finally did of course he was pissed off.

It was not a happy relationship.

Posted by: Stacy | Feb 8, 2006 3:32:02 PM

I think intelligent people have always gravitated towards intelligent partners. Traditional men may not have wanted an assertive or accomplished partner, but they didn't want an idiot raising the kids.

Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein | Feb 8, 2006 3:36:36 PM

Dunno. There is speculation that "geek + geek = autism/Asperger's" which is pretty frightening.

Posted by: Scorpio | Feb 8, 2006 3:46:05 PM

i'm glad dowd made us all think about this, because, yeah, it's ridiculous to assume men won't date women because they're just too darned interesting (did dowd really say that?). but some people, your father included, have thought/do think this.

more realistically, i think men's standards are not always as high as yours, ezra, while women's standards are almost always that high. sure, men might like an interesting woman, but hot is good enough, and hot is easier to achieve for young women (and men) just starting out than a good personality. but for me, a woman, a hot guy who never said anything interesting would never be good enough for a long term relationship. an average-looking guy with a sharp wit, on the other hand...

the difference in standards still leads to a discrepancy, wherein some men will "marry down," intellectually, and women will not. sadly, a woman who has been married when she is young and still working the hotness may never bother to develop her mind, her looks will go, and the man who married her will go on wrongly assuming all women are dolts. i think this explains a lot of the divorce rate and misogyny, really.

Posted by: jami | Feb 8, 2006 4:59:19 PM

oh, and smart+smart does produce smart, in every case i can think of, unless barbara bush is a cia operative in the time when she's not spending telling new orleanians how lucky they are to be in texas.

Posted by: jami | Feb 8, 2006 5:02:45 PM

Try this experiment: Go to a rich mall and you will see pretty women. Go to Wal-Mart and you will see ugly women. Of course, there are exceptions, but by and large, you will find that this holds true.

Women marry good providers, if they can....and the really good looking ones CAN!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 8, 2006 6:02:36 PM

I found the perfect woman: She's exactly as smart as me (we took IQ tests and got numerically the same score), but being smart isn't her thing, you know? For me, it defines me. If I couldn't talk good, I'd be nothing.

Her -- she's incredibly competent, incredibly pragmatic, incredibly accomplished and professional. She keeps the ships running on time. She does all the crafts and repairs and shit. Keeps the finances. I'm basically a fucking invalid and would be lost without her.

If she defined herself by being smart and talking good, etc., I suspect we'd argue more. But she's content with being good at doing stuff. That's her thing.

So I get all the benefits of being a smart guy with a smart chick, with none of the drawbacks.

What she gets, I'm not entirely sure ...

Posted by: realish | Feb 8, 2006 6:53:39 PM

My issue is what the meaning of "smart" is. I've felt in general that all my boyfriends have been pretty smart, but in much different ways. Who's smarter--someone who reads a lot or someone who can rebuild a car engine?

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Feb 8, 2006 7:27:07 PM

When my friends and I compare notes at week's end, more plaudits are given when the girls are impressive than when they're hot.

As an old fart (who married, and remains married to, a smarter law school classmate), I must say that I'm relieved to learn that young men of progressive politics still objectify women. Here I was thinking that hotness was entirely taboo. It appears, though, that it retains value as some sort of coefficientish modifier in the traditional ten point scale.

Posted by: TigerHawk | Feb 8, 2006 7:50:36 PM

With children there is regression towards the mean. Intelligent parents tend to have children that are less intelligent than they are while unintelligent parents tend to have children that are more intelligent. The "good luck" (genes and environment) that results in some people having high intelligence and the "bad luck" that results in some people having low intelligence is unlikely to repeat itself. Although of course the children of very intelligent parents are still likely to be more intelligent than average.

Posted by: Ronald Brak | Feb 8, 2006 7:58:28 PM

... I must say that I'm relieved to learn that young men of progressive politics still objectify women.

It's why we're all here, Tigerhawk. It's just that important. God, in his wisdom, gave men the "initiative gene". If left to the 'feminists' the deed would not get done.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 8, 2006 8:39:07 PM

Among the well-educated in liberal enclaves your formula appears to me to be now standard.

But vast areas of the country between the blue edges and the red heartland (with blue/purple urban stockades sprinkled therein) this kind of behavior is really not typical or growing as practice.

Pull up your trousers, sir - your bias is showing :) I consort with mostly horrid reich-wing types, and almost to a man their wives are both sharp and quite attractive. In my experience, a man worth his salt can attract and hold the interest of a woman worth winning regardless of political affiliation. Like attracts like, and it's a sad sort of man who's afraid of being coupled with his equal.

My Mother may not have attended college, but she is quite well read and can hold her own on any topic in any company. My father could not be prouder of her, but she is what she is, regardless of his opinion. My two neandrathal Red State sons chose lovely accomplished, smart women as well - both have more advanced degrees than my sons do! So much for tired cliches.

I think sometimes you "Blue Staters" spend way too much time making overbroad generalizations about things you know very little about :D

/tongue in cheek tweakage

Posted by: Bush Ate My Soul... | Feb 8, 2006 9:16:49 PM

I consort with mostly horrid reich-wing types, and almost to a man their wives are both sharp and quite attractive.

This is one of those soft bigotry of low expectations dealios, isn't it?

I think sometimes you "Blue Staters" spend way too much time making overbroad generalizations about things you know very little about

As a bona fide red stater, I'm quite aware of how the war of the sexes plays out amongst my more conservative brethern and it's a lot less urbane and more caveman than we like to let on, I'm afraid. It is true that a subsection of your Republican-voting male is drawn to smart women like moths to light, but unfortunately it is generally true then that they feel the proper way to woo such a woman is to irritatingly explain how they're superior to her in every way.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Feb 8, 2006 9:20:55 PM

First Repub who says he is, by the way, has stupidly proven the point.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Feb 8, 2006 9:21:34 PM

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