Analyzing census data from 2000, the economist Marta Murray-Close found that married people with a graduate degree were more likely to live apart from their spouse than those who had only an undergraduate degree. Among 25-to-29-year-olds, 3 or 4 percent of those holding only a bachelor’s degree lived apart from their spouse; the rate for those with a master’s or doctorate degree was 5 or 6 percent. “As you move up the education chain,” Murray-Close told me, “you’re also probably increasing the likelihood of having jobs that are concentrated in particular geographic areas.” And, further, being well educated typically means that the costs—as in, the forgone wages—of not pursuing one’s best job options are much higher.
Murray-Close has also found that there is a gender dynamic to these patterns: When men in heterosexual married couples have an advanced degree, as opposed to just an undergraduate degree, the couple is more likely to move somewhere together. For women, though, having an advanced degree makes it more likely that the couple will live separately. “I argue that family location choices are analogous to marital naming choices,” Murray-Close wrote in a 2016 paper. “Husbands rarely accommodate wives, whatever their circumstances, but wives accommodate husbands unless the cost of accommodation is unusually high.”
Another broad demographic pattern that might encourage professional long-distance relationships is that having a bachelor’s degree correlates with getting married later in life, which leaves a stage of life after college—perhaps a few years, perhaps as long as a decade—that can be cordoned off for career development before starting a family.