When I think of cities, I think of places where people of various backgrounds and classes mix, thereby opening up opportunities for social and economic mobility. But two studies that I heard about today cut against this vision.
The first suggested that women who live in urban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to emphasize a man’s earning potential and educational attainment when looking for a mate. Rather than producing economic and social mobility, cities seem to produce more couples who look for people of the same education and class background. These factors have displaced the previously dominant criteria of place of origin and ethnicity, reflecting new ideas of what is needed for successful marriage.
The second study looked at the relative happiness of urban and rural women. The correlation between a women’s happiness and her attractiveness was far more pronounced in urban than rural areas. Cities allow for more kinds of people, but perhaps also for more stratification of people.
These studies make me question the degree to which cities are a place of mobility and opportunity, since they seem to indicate that cities might solidify certain group boundaries even if there is a greater chance to come into contact with people from other groups. But these results also strike me as different from those I’ve seen in LDS wards.
Perhaps because belonging to the LDS church creates a special kind of group that limits Mormon mating options and absorbs a substantial part of time, I have seen real social mobility in LDS wards. I’ve seen couples of different educational and economic levels marry. I’ve seen numerous children from poor areas of town become first-generation college attendees thanks to the efforts of their youth leaders. Many of the LDS children I grew up with are now in professions that they found due to other ward members. In sum, I think the church can be a great tool for giving people real options.