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SWANS Song: Why Gentlemen Prefer Brains

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Okay, guys, you're standing at the altar and you have two choices: Bride #1 has a high-school degree. Bride #2 has a graduate-school degree. Which one do you pick?

(Wait, you say: What do these women look like? Is one nice, and one an evil bitch? This is no time to split hairs -- just choose one.)

If you're smart, you chose Bride #2, because according to a new study out of Australia, men who marry well-educated women are happier than men who marry less educated women.

In fact, men are eight percent happier in their marriage for each year of education that their wife has, according to new research by Shane Mathew Worner of Australian National University.

He found that a woman with a college degree could make her husband 32 percent happier than a woman who didn't have that degree, according to his analysis of Australian government data.

This new Australian data supports American opinion poll research: In a 2006 Harris Interactive survey, 89 percent of high-achieving men said they wanted to marry or had already married a woman who is equally or more intelligent. And nearly three-quarters of men said they believe a woman's career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife.

U.S. Census data bears this out as well: Women with more education are more likely to marry than women with less education. According to U.S. Census data, 93 percent of women with advanced degrees had married by age 40-44 compared with 86 percent of women with less than college degrees.

This is great news for a growing group of women: SWANS (Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse) -- powerful, driven professionals who flock to urban areas and high-status jobs.

There are millions of SWANS out there -- young lawyers making a mark, professors vying for tenure, journalists building relationships with high-powered sources, consultants advising senior executives, investment bankers embarking on a career in finance or entrepreneurs starting a new business. SWANS are women of all ethnicities and religions, from all types of socio-economic backgrounds-some with successful parents, many proud to be their families' first college graduates.

SWANS have received a lot of bad press in the media in the last few years (unfounded articles that men are intimidated by smart women, inflated concerns about a woman's ability to raise a family and have a career) but it's time for SWANS of the world to rejoice: Your odds of marriage are great, and once married, you're likely to have a happier marriage.

While this is terrific news for SWANS, it is increasingly bad news for women with less education. A century ago, a less educated but beautiful woman could marry an educated, wealthier man and raise the social status of herself and her future family. But that fairytale is even less likely to come true today: Those with education are choosing well-educated partners, and those with less education are less likely to marry and at greater risk of divorce.

So why are men happier with better-educated wives? Mr. Worner speculates that it may be about the money: Women with higher education levels earn more and are more likely to contribute to the household budget, making their husbands are happier.

SWANS know that it is also about finding a compatible life partner: The men I interviewed for my book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, said they would be happier with a SWANS because they were looking for an equal companion who they can talk to about their work, their personal life and their future.

Ian, a business school student in Philadelphia, said he was looking for "someone who is better than me at certain things and can help me to develop and make me a better individuals and someone who I am able to help, and give that person a sense of satisfaction from helping her to grow. Because career, intellect and education are so important to me, the kind of a person that I am going to spend the rest of my life with needs to be as driven and motivated as I am. I'm really looking for someone who shares my values."

Since the 1930s, sociologists have been ranking men's and women's preferences of what they are looking for in a spouse-and education and intelligence have risen dramatically on the list of priorities. In 1939, intelligence was #11 on a list of 18 characteristics, but in the most recent survey, it earns a place in the top five qualities men are hoping to find in a wife.

That popular 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is due for a remake:

Gentlemen Prefer Brains.

Learn more here. Share your thoughts on the SWANSFORUM, take the SWANS quiz and find out your odds of being married based on your education.

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