Homogamy: Definition & Theory

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

This lesson will cover the definition of homogamy as it relates to the field of sociology. We'll also discuss some theories of why people tend to enter homogamous relationships and look at how attitudes have changed in the direction of increasing tolerance for heterogamous relationships.

What is Homogamy?

If you were to search the dictionary for the definition of 'homogamy,' it would probably say, 'inbreeding,' which means to mate with people (usually cousins) within your own family. Not being a common practice in America, the thought of marrying and mating with someone in your own family is quite off-putting. This is the definition of homogamy from a biological perspective. In sociology, however, (the study of how human society functions), homogamy means something different, and that's the definition we're going to talk about today.

Inbreeding poster

Sociological Definition of Homogamy

Homogamy from a sociologist's standpoint is marriage and mating with a person of a similar socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, age, education level, and/or religion. It is often a subconscious and natural manner of choosing marriage and sexual mates. Homogamy is a form of assortative mating, which is a type of sexual selection, in which a person chooses a sexual mate with similar genotypes and phenotypes to themselves, more often than choosing a mate with different ones.

Theories of Homogamy

Why do people marry others of similar race, religion, age, education level, and social class? Following are some possible reasons or theories behind this type of assortative mating.

Similarities in Life Experience

Benjamin and Lauren both grew up in Jewish families, had bat and bar mitzvahs, were confirmed in the synagogue, and had each visited Israel to see the Holy Land. Shared life experiences led to a stronger connection and easy conversation between this couple.

Bar mitzvah boy

Similarities in Opinions and Beliefs

Jim and Mary, both Christian, believe that women and men should wait to have sex until marriage. Both of them attend church weekly. They also have similar conservative political views, such as a belief in fewer taxes, limited government, and the need for a drastic immigration reform. Similar opinions and beliefs strengthen Jim and Mary's relationship by giving them a sense of validation and security in their own beliefs, and this leads to confidence that each is with the right person.

Similarities in Interests

Jane and Tim, both from Australia, live in California and enjoy surfing and scuba diving. Having interests in common give something for Jane and Tim to do together, strengthening their passions and talents and making their relationship more enjoyable.

Geographic proximity (like living close to an ocean) creates opportunities to meet people with similar interests.
Surfing couple

Geographic Proximity

Miranda and Tom grew up in the rural farmlands of Georgia and were both homeschooled by their parents. Desiring to remain in the same town as adults, they found each other at their local church and instantly fell in love.

Comfort and Ease Due to Pleasing Family and Friends

Nitesh's parents, immigrants from India, always wanted their son to marry a nice Hindu girl. When he met someone who was Indian, and also Hindu, Nitesh's parents were very happy and proud of him. It was easier for Nitesh because his parents and her parents got along and planning the wedding was a joy.

A typical Indian wedding
Indian wedding

Desire to Stay Within Socioeconomic Status

Rose is the daughter of the mayor of the city. As a girl, she attended private school, went skiing every year for spring break, and enjoyed many privileges of being wealthy. When she looked for a mate, one of her first questions was what he was studying or what he did as a career so that she could continue along the same socioeconomic trajectory.

Desire to Carry on Cultural Traditions

Rosa came from Panama and settled in South Florida with her young family. When her son became old enough, she encouraged him to find a Hispanic girl who could continue on the cultural and religious traditions that were native to countries in Central America.

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