Assortative Mating for Educational Level in Parents of Public School Children (N > 7000 Individuals) in the Lagos State, Nigeria


Assortative mating for educational level is a widespread phenomenon in Western industrialized societies. However, whether or not the results from Western samples can be generalizable to populations in developing countries in Africa remains to be seen. The present study investigated assortative mating for educational level in parents of public school children (N > 7000) in the Lagos State in Nigeria. Approximately 61.5 % of the parents had spouses at the same level of education. More mothers than fathers married upward in educational level. The assortative mating coefficients for educational level were .52–.61 across respondents’ classes, .51–.62 across six school districts, and .57 (.55–.59) in the total sample. Overall, these results were very similar to the findings from Western or Asian samples, providing evidence to support the robustness of human mating pattern in educational attainment across different cultures and ethnic groups. The present findings should be incorporated in future quantitative and molecular genetic studies on Africans.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    At the time of data collection, I obtained the Lagos statewide exam scores from teachers for a subsample of the present study, which allowed me to compare school performance between students who reported both parents’ educational attainment and those who did not. The Lagos State Ministry of Education gives exams to all public school students on the same days at the end of every term each year. Students’ English and Mathematics exam scores of the second term in 2012 were analyzed as the two subjects were required for all students. Data were available only for a subsample because some teachers refused to release the data for various reasons (e.g., to keep confidentiality of the students, data were not available any more, etc.).On English exam, students who reported both parents educational attainment consistently showed significantly (p < .05) higher mean scores than did those who did not [64.3 (SD = 14.7, N = 2062) vs. 61.7 (SD = 14.8, N = 544) for primary school students; 52.3 (SD = 10.6, N = 1917) vs. 47.2 (SD = 10.0, N = 177) for secondary school students]. On Mathematics exam only the difference in scores among primary school students attained a statistical significance [58.2 (SD = 15.5, N = 2062) vs. 56.6 (SD = 15.1, N = 544)] although secondary school students who reported both parents’ educational level still had higher scores than did those who did not [51.9 (SD = 12.8, N = 1942) vs. 50.4 (SD = 12.4, N = 181)].


  1. Abdelrahman AI (1994) Education and assortative marriage in Northern and urban Sudan, 1945–79. J Biosoc Sci 26:341–348

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Blossfeld HP (2009) Educational assortative marriage in comparative perspective. Ann Rev Sociol 35:513–530

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cavalli-Sforza LL, Bodmer WF (1971) The genetics of human population. Freeman, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  4. Clark S, Hamplová D (2013) Single motherhood and child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa: a life course perspective. Demography 50:1521–1549

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Copen CE, Daniels K, Vespa J, Mosher WD (2012) First marriages in the United States: data from the 2006–2010 national survey of family growth. Natl Health Stat Report 49:1–21

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Domingue BW, Fletcher J, Conleye D, Boardman JD (2014) Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults. PNAS 111:7996–8000

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Ezeh AC (1997) Polygyny and reproductive behavior in sub-Saharan Africa: a contextual analysis. Demography 34:355–368

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Falker CT (1997) Effect of genetic heterogeneity and assortative mating on linkage analysis: a simulation study. Am J Hum Genet 61:1169–1178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) National policy on education (Revised). Federal Government Press, Lagos

    Google Scholar 

  10. Heath AC, Eaves LJ, Nance WE, Corey LA (1987) Social inequality and assortative mating: cause or consequence? Behav Genet 17:9–17

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Huber S, Fieder M (2011) Educational homogamy lowers the odds of reproductive failure. PLoS One 6(7):e22330

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Hur Y-M (2003) Assortative mating for personality traits, educational level, religious affiliation, height, weight, and body mass index in parents of a Korean twin sample. Twin Res 6:467–470

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Hur Y-M, Jeong H-U, Chung KW, Shin JS, Song T-B (2013a) The South Korean twin registry: an update. Twin Res Hum Genet 16(1):237–240

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Hur Y-M, Kim JW, Chung KW, Shin JS, Jeong H-U, Auta E (2013b) The Nigerian twin and sibling registry. Twin Res Hum Genet 16:282–284

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Idumwonyi MI (2002) Religious and cultural sustenance of patriarchy in Africa: The Bini woman’s dilemma. In: Akintunde D, Labeodan H (eds) Women and the culture of violence in traditional Africa. Sefer Books, Ibadan, pp 92–107

    Google Scholar 

  16. Isiugo-Abanihe UC (2000) Female age at marriage and proportions marrying in Nigeria. Afr Popul Stud 15:43–65

    Google Scholar 

  17. Jiang Q, Feldman MW, Li S (2014) Marriage squeeze, never-married proportion, and mean age at first marriage in China. Popul Res Policy Rev 33:189–204

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Mascie-Taylor CG, Vandenberg SG (1988) Assortative mating for IQ and personality due to propinquity and personal preference. Behav Genet 18:339–345

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. National Population Commission & ICF Macro (2009) Nigeria demographic and health survey 2008. National Population Commission, Abuja

    Google Scholar 

  20. Ntoimo LFC, Isiugo-Abanihe U (2014) Patriarchy and singlehood among women in Lagos, Nigeria. J Fam Issues 35:1980–2008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Paquette J (1999) Educational attainment and employment income: incentives and disincentives for staying in school. Can J Educ 24:151–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn GE, McGuffin P (2001) Behavioral genetics, 4th edn. W. H. Freeman, New York

    Google Scholar 

  23. Redden DT, Allison DB (2006) The effect of assortative mating upon genetic association studies: spurious associations and population substructure in the absence of admixture. Behav Genet 36(5):678–686

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Reynolds CA, Baker LA, Pedersen NL (2000) Multivariate models of mixed assortment: phenotypic assortment and social homogamy for education and fluid ability. Behav Genet 30(6):455–476

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Rushton JP, Bons TA (2005) Mate choice and friendship in twins: evidence for genetic similarity. Psychol Sci 16(7):555–559

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Schwartz CR (2013) Trends and variation in assortative mating: causes and Consequences. Ann Rev Sociol 39:451–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Smith DJ (2007) Modern marriage, men’s extramarital sex, and HIV risk in southeastern Nigeria. Am J Public Health 97:997–1005

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. Torche F (2010) Educational assortative mating and economic inequality: a comparative analysis of three Latin American countries. Demography 47:481–502

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. United States Library of Congress (2008) Country Profile-Nigeria, Federal Research Division

  30. Watkins MP, Meredith W (1981) Spouse similarity in newlyweds with respect to specific cognitive abilities, socioeconomic status, and education. Behav Genet 11:1–21

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. World Bank (2013) Nigeria

  32. World Education News & Reviews (2011) The education system in Nigeria.

  33. World Education News & Reviews (2013) Education in Nigeria.

Download references


This study was supported by the Pioneer Fund (USA), Charles Darwin Research Institute (USA), and Ulster Institute for Social Research (UK). I would like to thank students who participated in this study and school teachers and principals, and the staff members in the Universal Education Board and the Ministry of Education in the Lagos State who kindly assisted this study. Special thanks are given to research assistants including Francis Annie Nero, Funmi Nutayi, Hammed Balogun, and Johnson Lawal.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yoon-Mi Hur.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Health Research and Ethics Committee. Informed consent was obtained from participants in the study.

Additional information

Edited by Chandra Reynolds

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hur, Y. Assortative Mating for Educational Level in Parents of Public School Children (N > 7000 Individuals) in the Lagos State, Nigeria. Behav Genet 46, 596–602 (2016).

Download citation


  • Assortative mating
  • Education
  • Social inequality
  • Mate selection