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Marriage is an almost universal institution for men and women in India today. But by 2050, women could find it more difficult to find an eligible partner, particularly if they have been educated at university or college level, according to new research published in the journal, Demography.

A significant proportion of men in India currently marry women less educated than themselves. The research theorises that if public attitudes do not change, whereby university-educated or college-educated men are more desirable spouses than women similarly educated, by 2050 there will be a ‘mis-match’ in numbers of ‘suitable’ men and women. Using this premise, researchers' model suggests the proportion of never-married women aged 45-49 will go up from 0.07% in 2010 to nearly 9% by 2050, with the most significant increase experienced by university-educated women. There would also be a rise in the percentage of unmarried men, particularly amongst those with little education.

Lead author Ridhi Kashyap said: 'This research is suggesting that in India, families might need to revise their views on the "suitability" of potential marriage partners. The fact that the number of women with higher education is growing is a success story for India.'

The study involved researchers from the University of Oxford; the Center for Demographic Studies, Barcelona; and Minnesota Population Center, USA. They harmonised existing data on current marriage patterns by age and education and applied these to population projections on the likely age, sex and educational attainment of the population in India by 2050 to develop scenarios for future marriage patterns.

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