Modern day men and women still consider financial security important in marriage, according to research carried out 200 years on from Jane Austen’s iconic novel, Emma.
One in three Scots (31%) said it was important to marry someone who would provide them with financial security, according to research commissioned by Scottish Widows to mark its 200th anniversary.
However, the study of more than 2000 people nationwide found stark differences in the attitudes between men and women in choosing a partner, marriage and life priorities – key themes in Emma, which charts the life and times of precocious singleton and matchmaker Emma Woodhouse.
When it comes to meeting a prospective partner, modern men and women still have views in common with the fictional Emma, who took pride in her matchmaking skills. Today, almost a third (31%) of Scots consider being introduced by friends and family as the most effective way to meet a partner compared to one in four (24%) who would choose online dating, whilst 25% who said meeting at work.
The poll found a partner’s background is as important now as it was in 1815, with almost half (45%) of Scots polled claiming that it was important to marry someone of a ‘similar background.’
Over a quarter of Scottish men (28%) polled said that their financial security was ‘dependent’ or ‘very dependent’ on having a wife – and one in four of Scottish women (26%) agreed that the same could be said of having a husband.
A quarter of men (24%) and more than a third of women (36%) even said that they would be concerned about marrying a partner if he or she was not financially secure.
When it comes to the wedding itself, more Scottish women than men (47% of men compared to 70% of women) agreed it is acceptable to spend a frugal £10,000 or less on their wedding day (the average wedding in the UK costing £24,000).
While the average engagement ring costs £1600, almost three in five Scottish women (59%) but only a third of men (33%) said that spending £500 or less was acceptable.
One in 10 (12%) Scottish women would consider topping up their engagement ring fund in order to receive a bigger or better diamond, with women aged 35-44 most likely to chip in for the ring (33% versus average of 12% of women polled overall).
Journalist and columnist Lucy Mangan said: “All the key romantic themes from Emma – finding the right partner, matchmaking friends, the financial implications of marriage – are still as relevant today as they were to society in 1815.
“Although not everyone may wish to get married, they will almost certainly have friends or family who are tying the knot. Love, romance and the marriage market retain their fascination for us all.
“And it is very interesting that both men and women value financial security in a partner so much according to the new research – marriage in Austen’s day was a vital source of security for women but it seems that it cuts both ways nowadays.”
When it comes to life priorities, women now place more value on a good education than men. More than a quarter (27%) of Scottish women said it was a top life priority vs only 8% of men. This trend is reflected by education sector data that shows women are a third more likely to enter higher education than men.
Scottish women were also more likely to value travelling than men, with 72% of women claiming that travelling was one of their top four life priorities vs only 54% of men.
However, men were shown to place more value on starting a family – out of the top five life priorities, 43% of Scottish men placed starting a family in their top three priorities vs only 39% of women.
Lucy Mangan said: “If Jane Austen were alive today, she would still write about the same themes she explored in her own period and that’s why she is still relevant and popular in 2015. The settings change with time, but the key ideas of romantic love and sensible matchmaking still remain.
“Women now have better access to information and better-protected rights these days, which means they are free to make prudent choices about their futures in a way that women of 1815 just weren’t.
“Emma’s suitor Mr Knightley says in the novel that ‘Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives’ and it seems that 200 years later, when it comes to the prospect of merging bank accounts perhaps it may just be the wives who are becoming cautious of silly men.”
Jackie Leiper, retirement expert at Scottish Widows, said: “Two hundred years after Scottish Widows was founded, our research indicates that women are still prioritising the things that will help them to be financially stable in the future – despite how these priorities may have evolved over the past two centuries.
“This way of thinking and better financial education will help today’s generation of Emmas be better prepared for the future, regardless of their marriage ambitions and life priorities.”