Nearly one million women higher educated than their partners

30/06/2011 15:00

More than 950 thousand women were higher educated than their partners in 2010, which means that in nearly one in every four couples the woman is the highest educated. In recent years, the number of couples, in which the female partner has the highest level of education, has gradually increased.

Average education level of women continually rising

Last year, more than 4 million couples were married, unmarried or living together. In 24 percent of cases (nearly one million couples), the woman had a higher education level than the man. This situation is becoming more common: in 1996 only 18 percent of women (nearly 700 thousand) were better educated than their partners. The increase is due to the higher average education level of women.

Yet, more men are higher educated than their female partners. Last year, this applied to 37 percent of couples versus 41 percent in 1996. Commonly, both partners have the same level of education. This applies to four in every ten couples, although the proportion has declined marginally over the past years.

Education level couples

Education level couples

Younger women more often have lower educated partners

It is much more common in younger couples for the female partner to have the highest level of education. Last year, 15 percent of women aged 65 or older were better educated than their partners. The proportion was twice as high (30 percent) for women in the age category 25-45. As a result, young women with partners whose level of education is lower outnumber those with partners whose level of education is higher.

Education level couples by age of the female partner, 2010

Education level couples by age of the female partner, 2010

Henk-Jan Dirven