The XX Factor

Ross Douthat Says Princeton Mom Outed a Dirty Liberal Secret

Princeton coeds planning their weddings

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Ross Douthat makes an interesting argument in Sunday’s New York Times about the now infamous letter by Princeton alumna Susan Patton telling young women that they’d better snatch up a Princeton man in college while they can. Douthat argues that Patton was merely spilling the dirty little secret of the liberal elites, which is that they perpetuate themselves by intermarrying. In sociology this is known as “assortative mating” or sometimes “marriage homogamy” and it’s a pattern that’s become the norm in America. It used to be that a rich man would be just as likely to marry his secretary as the cute girl from pre-med (Don Draper and Megan). But now, he almost never marries his secretary. The result is that we’ve consolidated wealth among the urban elites—an unfortunate and embarrassing class problem we liberals and particularly feminists don’t like to acknowledge or admit that we benefit from.

Douthat is right that this is one of the key engines of class inequality. But it has very little to do with Patton’s letter. She was assuming the old world, the one where Don marries Megan. “Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated,” Patton wrote. “It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty.” Maybe this is the world Patton grew up in, but it’s not true now. Men don’t marry women who are less intelligent or educated; in fact it’s the opposite. Women are starting to marry men who are less intelligent and educated. (Even athletes don’t just marry the bombshells anymore; they marry their equals.)

So you can feel guilty about your assortative mating, ladies, but you should still totally ignore Patton’s advice. No need to snag a man in college. Show up at the 10th or 15th reunion and there will still be plenty of available Princeton men to go around.