A man who takes his wife's surname might be not be the brightest
Study finds that the more educated a man is, the less likely he is to change his last name
What kind of man takes his wife’s last name?
One who tends to be less educated than his spouse, a new international study claims.
Portland State University in the US looked at whether a man’s level of education – both his own and relative to his wife’s – influences the likelihood of him choosing a non-traditional surname in marriage.
Sociology professor Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer analysed data collected from a nationally representative survey that asked men if they did anything to their surnames when they married.
Of the 877 men, only 27 changed their names.
Of those, 25 dropped their last names to take their wife’s and two adopted a hyphenated version.Among the 97% who kept their names, 87% said their wives took their last name.
It found that among men with less than a high school degree, 10.3% reported changing their surname.
Among men with a high school qualifications but no tertiary, it was 3.6%.
“Even though better educated men may have more egalitarian attitudes about gender, they also find themselves in the traditional breadwinner role and potentially have more to lose by changing their surname,” the study said. Less educated men, on the other hand, may have less to lose.
”Sometimes people think that if women keep their own name and make men change their name, it’s women being selfish or bucking tradition when they should follow gender norms,” Shafer said.
The findings also showed that men whose wives had more education (and potentially more earning power) than them were less likely to change their surnames than men who had the same level of education as their wives.
In South Africa it is also rare for men to change their last names.Arvitha Doodnath, legal researcher at the Helen Suzman Foundation, said Section 26 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act allowed for this.
“In South Africa it is not common for a man to change his surname to that of his wife’s. Although I have heard of instances where husbands do take their wife’s surnames or even double-barrel it – both of which are allowed in SA,” Doodnath said.
Her own research found that in many countries the convention of adopting the husband’s surname has been abolished and women can choose what surname they wish to use.
“Couples are also double-barrelling when they get married. The practice of changing one’s surname still occurs but seems to be declining with the younger generations as they believe that it is an archaic fashion.”
Doodnath said that in certain countries “laws exist which ban women taking their husbands surnames when they marry.
“In France, a law was passed in 1789 required people to not use any name other than that on their birth certificate.
“In France, today women cannot legally take their husbands surname. However both men and women can accept the other’s surname for social and colloquial purposes.”