If you believe Charles Murray, the U.S. author of books like the Bell Curve and Coming Apart, you should go out and find yourself an intelligent, well-bred, high earning spouse. Murray is an exponent of assortive mating - the concept that the best breed with the best, and the rest be damned. Intelligent people are having babies with intelligent people and creating a new 'cognitive elite', he claims. High end universities are a hotbed of this assortive mating. So are business schools.
The New York Times ran an article last weekend claiming that female MBAs at Harvard are torn: on one hand they want to do well in their classes and assert themselves, on the other they want to appear demure and find a spouse. One told the NYT that studying at Harvard felt like the last chance to meet a husband, "among cream-of-the-crop-type people.” The article has caused ructions among female Harvard MBAs, who claim to be unapologetic feminists, but that doesn't mean it's entirely without truth. This satirical YouTube video, allegedly made by students at Columbia Business School, suggests MBA courses are tantamount to a holiday in Ibiza for people with a GMAT of 720 or more.
"I met my wife while I was studying my MBA," says Julian Birkinshaw, professor of strategy and internship at London Business School. "She was on a parallel programme. I won't deny that an MBA was an opportunity to kill two birds one stone - I was at a point in my life where I was looking for something different work-wise, and I was single."
Birkinshaw studied at Western Ontario Business School 20 years ago and began his career at ICI, the chemical company, so he's not typical of the 30-something women allegedly looking for love nowadays at Harvard and elsewhere. However, one female ex-banker living in London, says they certainly do exist: "I didn't meet my spouse during my MBA," she says, "but plenty of people did, including my room mate. It's intense, you're living and working together, you have a great social life and it's a great environment for meeting the opposite sex."
She adds that most female MBAs don't go into their course in search of a husband, but that finding one can be an added bonus. "It would be terribly inaccurate to say these ambitious women are embarking upon these expensive courses just to find a man."
Not all business schools are equally effective at delivering on matrimony. And not all business schools are popular with banks. If you want a career in banking along with your spouse and your MBA, there are a few schools you should go for.
INSEAD is our top pick. It has several factors in its favour -particularly if you're female. Like most other European business schools, it's short on women: just 35% of this year's class are female. It's also situated on a campus in Fontainbleau, near a forest, one hour away from Paris. Anecdotally, this makes student life there particularly intense. This INSEAD blogger, writing in 2012, said life at the school was especially 'fun' compared to other business schools. At the end of the course, he claims that 160 out of 180 INSEAD students went for a four day drinking holiday to the Greek island of Mykonos.
INSEAD students say the school gives rise to plenty of weddings. However, the school was unable to confirm this for us.
INSEAD has the double advantage of being popular with investment banks in Europe. The only downside is the average GMAT, which at 702 is lower than at most U.S. schools, suggesting the assortive mating principle might be more effective at Harvard (average GMAT 730).
Dartmouth Tuck also looks like a good bet (again, if you're a woman). Unusually for a U.S. school, only 34% of the students on its full time MBA programme are women (Harvard has 41% women and Wharton has 43%). Like INSEAD, it also has the advantage of remoteness (it's based in New Hampshire). Class sizes are small and the atmosphere is friendly.
"In the first year you'll be in student dorms but in the second year, you'll be living in shared apartments and flats," said one Tuck alum. "There's quite a lot of travelling together as part of the course," she added.
If you're a female MBA student, you may also want to try the London Business School. It has the advantage of size (1,400 students in total), gender disparity (two male full time MBA students to every women), and a high proportion of unmarried students (70%). It's also based in central London near the famously romantic Regents' Park. It's students aren't the brightest (average GMAT 695), but they're very popular with banks: 32% of LBS MBA graduates went into finance careers in 2012.