Is Education Doing Favors For Your Dating Life?

Two people sitting next to each other on a bench surrounded by hearts

At GCU, we know that many of our students find sparks among their GCU classmates, connecting over shared classes, group projects or on-campus events. Still, we know that different education levels and intellectual perspectives can make or break a relationship right from the start. We’ve heard of dates being intellectually snobby, empty-headed and just about everything in between. And now, as in-person dating resumes in 2021, we were curious to see how intellectual compatibility will impact the fate of new relationships. 

To that end, Grand Canyon University, along with help from Grand Canyon Education, surveyed 700 people across the U.S. to uncover how education factors into Americans' dating lives. We asked survey participants the following questions:

  • Do you inherently judge a romantic partner based on their degree attainment or based on which college they attended?
  • Do you prefer to be the intellectual superior in a relationship, and to what degree do you like to be intellectually challenged?
  • Between earnings potential, educational attainment and beyond, what are your most important dating criteria
  • How does degree attainment impact your romantic matches on online dating apps?

Then, we compiled our results to gauge if education is doing favors for Americans’ dating lives. Read on to see the full survey results!

Do Americans Date Their Intellectual Equal?

graphs displaying American’s sentimental toward dating their intellectual equal

First, we wanted to determine how different groups of people value intellectual parity between partners in a relationship. We asked different demographics about what attitudes they have toward dating their intellectual equal. Nearly 70% of respondents say that it’s important or very important to be intellectually challenged by a romantic partner, whereas less than 10% say that it is unimportant. Millennials value intellectual challenge in a partner more than any other generation. Participants who live in a suburban setting (72%) value intellectual challenges more than respondents in urban or rural areas.

Additionally, we asked respondents about what level of degree attainment they seek in a partner. Generally, most respondents require that their romantic partner hold the same level of degree as they do – they want their partner to be their intellectual equivalent. For example, the largest portion of respondents with a master's degree (48%) want to date someone who also has a master's degree, and the largest portion of respondents with a bachelor’s degree (55%) want to date someone who also has a bachelor’s degree.

In contrast, while respondents would prefer to date their intellectual equal in an ideal world, when asked if they would date someone who did not have a college degree, a majority 82% of overall respondents say “yes.”

charts presenting American’s thoughts on dating someone more or less educated

Seventy-five percent of respondents say they would prefer to date someone who is their intellectual superior. However, when we zoom in on individual demographics, the results shift.

The youngest generation, Gen Z, is the generation most open to dating someone who is their intellectual inferior (36%). On the other hand, baby boomers are the generation most predisposed to dating someone who has the upper hand in intelligent conversations (82%). This insight suggests that younger generations entering the dating world may completely change how intellectual chemistry is understood!

This generational difference made us wonder how age and gender may impact different criteria that individuals seek in a partner.

Dating Criteria Ranked By Gender and Generation

graphic depicting the top factors Americans consider when dating

Next, we asked respondents about their most important dating criteria in a romantic partner. Overall, the largest percentage of respondents across age and gender say that religion and political affiliation are the most important factors determining compatibility with a partner, with women more concerned about these factors than men. However, deep dives by specific demographics reveal other important factors.

First, we found that earning potential matters more for Gen X respondents than any other generation, an interesting fact given ongoing debates about fiscal attitudes and responsibility among generations. Alternatively, the largest portion of Gen Z respondents (24%) say that religious and political affiliations matter most in a prospective partner. Twenty-eight percent of baby boomers say the same. This insight makes sense as outlets like Forbes are dubbing Gen Z the “woke generation” with a strong drive for social and political activism, even more so than previous generations.1

In terms of gender, physical attributes were more than three times as important to men than women. Additionally, educational attainment was more than twice as important to men than to women. What’s more, respondents in the South give physical attributes more significance than any other U.S. region.

Still, with all these essential factors to check off, the question remains: how does one find a compatible partner? For that, many people use online dating apps. So, we were curious to see how education level factored into dating app activity.

How Does Education Factor into Dating App Activity?

graphs highlighting the impact of education levels on dating apps

Overall, we found that a university name-drop in a dating profile can make a big difference for success on dating apps. Nearly three out of every four respondents say they would be more likely to match with someone on a dating app with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Degree level matters most to those who have obtained their master’s degrees, of whom 89% say that a college degree would encourage them to swipe right. However, while having a degree matters, the name on the top of the diploma matters less. Seventy-five percent of respondents say that they would not judge a partner based on their alma mater.

Finally, we asked about which apps respondents would choose to find highly educated partners. Overall, the most significant percentage of respondents (32%) say eHarmony is the dating app where you'll find the most educated matches, followed by Match (28%) and Tinder (11%).

Wrap Up

While we saw many respondents say they were flexible to date someone not on par with them intellectually, we noticed that, generally, individuals desire a romantic partner that is intellectually superior to themselves. We noted that degrees matter more for degree-holding individuals and factors like political and religious beliefs matter more to specific groups of people than intellect.

We also noted shifts in how Gen Z perceives important dating factors like educational level and earnings potential. We know that many of these individuals are entering the GCU community and are interested in how their relationship considerations will affect their student experience here on campus, online, in some of our hybrid degree programs or even in some of our bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. Best of luck to all those on the hunt for their intellectual equal! 

1Retrieved from Forbes, “Generation Woke: How Marketers Can Create Meaningful Connections With Gen Z” in May 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.