Hypergamy refers to a system of practice of selecting a spouse of higher socio-economic status than oneself. Specifically, it refers to a widespread tendency amongst human cultures for females to seek or be encouraged to pursue male suitors that are comparatively older, wealthier or otherwise more privileged than themselves.


In feudal societies, it was generally more accepted for males to marry below their station than females. Accordingly, a prince could marry a commoner with much greater ease than a princess could. Even amongst today's royal and aristocratic families the tendency holds true - Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, for example, was the first successor to the Chrysanthemum Throne to marry a commoner Michiko Shoda. Likewise, other contemporary marriages such as Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark to Mary Donaldson involve a male aristocrat and a female commoner. A reverse situation involving a male commoner would probably still be viewed with some distaste both within the family as well as by members of the public generally.


Even in contemporary society, human females continue to exhibit strong mate-selective preferences for spouses that are at least equal to them in terms of job status, social standing, and capital accumulation. In comparison males place greater emphasis on physical attractiveness.

In western societies, despite relative parity of numbers between genders in most cases, many lower-class males face difficulties in finding relationships, as lower-class females may still aspire to obtaining a mate with greater social standing.

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