Increase in similarities between mates not associated with changes in U.S. gene pool, says Stanford's Ben Domingue

May 30, 2016

A new study finds that growing inequality is not mirrored by changes in how key genetic patterns are distributed across the population.

If you flip through the marriage announcements in the weekend newspaper, it’s no surprise that people with similar physical traits and backgrounds tend to get hitched. A longstanding question, however, concerns how these similar pairings and their ensuing offspring impact the overall gene pool.

Now, a team of researchers has tracked traits with genetic cues, such as height, and shown that while people are increasingly choosing similar mates, this does not seem to be driving changes in the gene pool.

“We’re asking how spouses are alike, how this is affecting the number of children they have, and then asking how both of these are changing over time,” said Ben Domingue, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University and one of the authors of the study. “We see an increasing stratification across society in terms of mating and fertility, but it’s not corresponding to changes in the underlying genetic signature.”