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Lady and the Trump: Status and Wealth in the Marriage Market

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  • Johan Almenberg
  • Anna Dreber

Abstract

Indicators of past wealth -'old money'- typically bestow prestige and contribute to high status. Nobility, a culturally determined, hereditary status marker, might act as such an indicator, and thereby serve as a vehicle for the cultural transmission of economic standing. As an institution, nobility is an anachronism. Status, however, plays an important role in most societies, making individuals allocate valuable resources to status-enhancing activities. This suggests that even though nobility no longer entails formal privileges, it may continue to be coveted as a status marker. We examine the relative performance of nobility in the marriage market. Data on Swedish marriages provide an opportunity to test the hypothesis that the probability of hypergamy (marrying 'up') in terms of wealth increases when an individual belongs to the nobility. Our main finding is a significantly higher probability of hypergamy for members of the nobility, controlling for own wealth and other covariates. This 'nobility premium' is sizeable. The effect is statistically significant and robust to a number of different measures of hypergamy. This finding has implications for the intergenerational transmission of inequality, and for the longevity of the institution of nobility itself. Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan Almenberg & Anna Dreber, 2009. "Lady and the Trump: Status and Wealth in the Marriage Market," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 161-181, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:62:y:2009:i:2:p:161-181
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo & Maitreesh Ghatak & Jeanne Lafortune, 2013. "Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 33-72, May.
    2. Persson, Petra, 2015. "Social insurance and the marriage market," Working Paper Series 2015:6, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. Yamamura, Eiji, 2009. "Socio-economic status, gender, and spouse’s earnings: affect of family background on matching," MPRA Paper 17100, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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