Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Who is married to whom in India

In a marriage where both partners are working, the husband and wife often tend to be engaged in similar occupations

Mumbai: Is it true that people tend to marry within their profession or occupation? Data available from the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS-II) suggests so, if we analyse marriages within and across broad occupation categories. For example, among those female teachers who were married, 19% were married to fellow teachers (CHART 1A), the highest among the 14 occupation categories we constructed. This pattern holds for male teachers too—14% of male teachers are married to fellow teachers (CHART 1B), more than any other group if we exclude housewives. In fact, for all the male teachers whose spouses were not housewives, 55% of them were married to a fellow teacher.

At an all-India level, working-age married Indians are predominantly employed either as construction workers or agricultural labourers, a fact which is true for both men and women (CHART 2). As charts 1A and 1B show, men and women in the two most popular occupations—construction and agricultural labour—also marry mostly within their own occupations. Of course, it is possible that the couples which are reporting to be construction workers or agricultural labourers were not in the same occupations at the time of marriage, but together made the switch to the present occupation at some point in their married life.

Wives of agricultural labourers and of construction workers less likely to be housewives

Chart 2 shows that two-thirds of married women in working age are housewives. Of course, there are differences in the probability of a woman being a housewife, depending on the income of the household or the occupation of the husband. Richer households report higher percentage of married women as being housewives. The top quartile or the richest 25% of households reported 75% of its married women to be housewives, which was higher than the 63% of women being housewives among the bottom 25% households.

Whether or not the woman is a housewife is also affected by the occupation of the husband. Wives of agricultural labourers and of construction workers are less likely to be housewives (CHART 3). This reiterates an increasingly accepted feature of female labour force participation in India, which states that high participation of women from among certain strata of society might be more on account of economic hardships and the necessity to work, rather than necessarily representing emancipation.

Do married couples also have similar levels of education?

So far we saw that married couples, wherein both the partners are working, often tend to be engaged in similar occupations (CHART 1). So is the pattern similar for educational qualifications? The answer is a partial no. Of course, there is some positive correlation—people with more years of education tend to marry a more educated person. But often, the educational qualification is not similar for both the partners. And there is a pattern which shows that women tend to “marry up". In other words, the education level of the husband tends to be higher than the education level of the woman herself (CHART 4). The opposite is true for men. This trend seems to have persisted across generations, as we find when we analyse cases separately where the age of the married woman is less than 40.

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