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Marriage Squeeze

Social Dimensions Of The Pool Of Eligibles

Mates are selected out of a pool of eligibles. Norms of homogamy dictate that a potential mate should have social characteristics similar to one's own: like marries like. Almost universal age norms dictate that couples are supposed to be of the same generation, with the husband slightly older. People seek others who are homogenous in salient aspects of social identity: race, religion, ethnicity, education, occupational prestige, affluence, and marital status.

Exemptions and exceptions. Some people have such special appeal for the opposite sex that they are considered eligible for marriage even if they do not meet conventional criteria. Alluring people include those of great beauty, talent, celebrity, rank, or achievement, as well as those of great wealth. Charismatic people are few in number but are desired by many, and their pool of eligibles is very large. Romantic love invests the loved one with alluring and unique features. A person in love may see any person as charismatic and may woo them regardless of circumstances.

People may be rejected from the pool of eligibles because of personal defects, disfigurements, or disabilities, whether physical, psychological, or social. Such people have, in effect, the opposite of charisma. Although a stigmatized person may be accepted in the role of friend or colleague, many are rejected for the role of spouse. People with debilities may still marry: however, their de facto pool of eligibles is restricted to those who can and do accept them as they are. The definitions of stigmata, and the degrees of social rejection associated with them, vary markedly among cultures.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsMarriage Squeeze - Social Dimensions Of The Pool Of Eligibles, The Mating Gradient, Sex Ratios: Measuring The Marriage Squeeze