Want to Marry a Movie Star? You Might Need to Study Up

You don't have to be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to be a movie star. But if you dream of marrying James Franco (Ph.D. student, Yale) or Natalie Portman (B.A. in psychology, Harvard), get in line, and get smart.

Movie stars who marry each other tend to find matches with similar educational backgrounds, a new study finds. The research may help explain matrimony outside Hollywood, too.

Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be sorted by their levels of education, but they didn't know what was really behind the choices. Was it the brains or lack thereof, the socioeconomic status that tends to come with more (or less) education, or other lifestyle factors and interests?

Gustaf Bruze, an economist at the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences in Denmark, put together a big database of top movie stars, looking at their marriages, earnings, and education levels.

Formal education has no bearing on film success, Bruze found. It didn't help at the box office or at the Oscars. He also found that actors are unlikely to meet their spouses in school, or to be cast together in movies due to their education level. But what did shine through was this: Stars who marry each other do tend to have similar educational backgrounds.

Bruze's conclusions probably apply to the rest of us, he figures.

"Men and women have very strong preferences for nonfinancial partner traits correlated with education," Bruze said. "And educational sorting would remain even if the tendency of men and women to work with colleagues of a similar educational background were to disappear or if the role of educational institutions as a meeting place for future husbands and wives were to disappear."

The findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of Human Capital.

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