The XX Factor

Butchers Marry Other Butchers: The Most Common Career Match-Ups in the U.S.

Love at first slice?

If you’ve ever fantasized over the forbidden intrigue of a workplace romance, you should consider a career as a grade school teacher—two grade school teachers are more likely to marry one another than any other career pair. So says a fascinating interactive from Bloomberg Business, which maps the most common marriage matches for each occupation in a mesmerizing web of pink and blue lines. Using data from 3.5 million households polled in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, Bloomberg charted love matches for same- and different-gender couples across 463 career categories.

Some occupations show up in many common matches by virtue of their general prevalence—lots of people are married to factory workers, housekeepers and janitors, teachers, nurses, and administrative assistants—but others intersect in surprising ways. Female dancers are most likely to marry male welders—maybe it’s the Flashdance effect? A gay male private detective is most likely to marry an athlete, coach, or umpire. Heterosexual air traffic controllers and musicians are most likely to marry one another, but lesbian ones are most likely to marry announcers and “textile knitting and weaving machine operators,” respectively. Lots of female bartenders, teacher assistants, bus drivers, and telephone operators marry male truck drivers, but lesbian truck drivers marry each other.

Bloomberg’s analysis notes that salary dynamics play a major role in many common different-gender match-ups. Women in high-paying careers—doctors, lawyers, CEOS—often marry other doctors, lawyers, and CEOs, while lower-earning women “marry up.” Gay male CEOs are likely to marry other male CEOs; heterosexual ones are likely to marry grade school teachers, secretaries, or “miscellaneous managers.” Male engineers are most likely to marry grade school teachers, too. Women in public relations, a well-paying field that still isn’t at the top of the pay scale, tend to marry higher-earning managers, CEOs, legislators, and lawyers. Meanwhile, men in public relations marry lower-earning nurses, high school teachers, and secretaries. This dynamic is easy to spot in the medical field, too: Most female physicians and surgeons, gay or straight, marry other physicians and surgeons; male ones, gay and straight, marry nurses. Female nurse anesthetists marry male physicians and surgeons. Male ones marry other nurses.

Last year, Priceonomics analyzed the 2012 data from the American Community Survey and noted that heterosexual men and women were most likely to marry someone in their same career field when they were gender minorities—male kindergarten teachers and female police officers, for instance. The 2012 study found that nearly 40 percent of female construction workers in two-career households were married to other construction workers. It also showed a full 25 percent of farming, fishing, and forestry workers married within their field, probably because there are a limited number of career options in rural communities. The Bloomberg interactive shows a similarly high romantic overlap between heterosexual farmers and ranchers.

Many of the match-ups invite adorable fantasies of shared interests and lives: Butcher-on-butcher romances are quite common, as are upholsterer-on-upholsterer and barber-on-barber affairs. Some pairings seem to indicate on-the-job meet-cutes: Many male “entertainers and performers” marry female travel guides; gay male actors tend to marry camera operators; female probation officers marry male police officers or female lawyers and judges. Others just sound like smart financial setups: Female photographers, writers, and authors are most likely to marry to male “miscellaneous managers,” who probably have steadier sources of income. Postsecondary school teachers—gay and straight, male and female—are incredibly incestuous, which probably isn’t surprising to anyone who’s spent time with a crew of college professors. Where tenure arrangements fall short, academic love prevails.