The Impact of Social Structure on Mate Selection
The individualistic orientation of most US college students presents a persistent problem for teaching sociology, especially at the introductory level where many students find it hard to understand social structure and how it shapes their lives. This chapter provides an empirical evaluation of whether an active-learning exercise focused on mate selection increases student understanding of the impact that social structure has on marital choice. First, dating and marriage are relatively salient to a large number of college students; some students are married, others are engaged, while many of the rest are actively looking for life partners. Second, as the literature on the family makes clear, social structural factors—especially race, age, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographical propinquity—play a key role in how one chooses a mate. Third, even with increases in cohabitation and other family forms, projections indicate that approximately 90 percent of whites and 70 to 75 percent of African Americans will eventually marry.